Features, Highlights

A call to unite and shine for Christ

The Rev Paul Thian welcomes the delegates to the 45th CAC Session while the Rev Dr Goh looks on.

The 45th Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) session was a muted affair compared to previous years. While much of the proceedings over four days was done via Zoom, the opening and closing services were conducted both on-site and livestreamed to off-site participants.

In his sermon at the opening service, the outgoing Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung urged the Church to continue holding fast to and proclaiming the hope that only God can give in a world beleaguered by the prolonged battle against COVID-19.

 

The hope of the Lord is in our midst

Bishop Dr Chong’s sermon referenced Romans 15:13–16, where the Apostle Paul used his own tumultuous faith journey in facing trials, dangers and challenges to encourage the early Church to hold fast to the hope that is in Christ. It is this quality of spiritual indomitability that Bishop Dr Chong hoped Methodists across all three Annual Conferences would emulate, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the world seem so chaotic and uncertain.

Bishop Dr Chong also urged CAC members to stay united, always mindful and ready to uphold and look out for one another.

 

“Best of all, God is with us”

Echoing Bishop Dr Chong’s message, CAC President the Rev Dr Goh Nai Lat, also gave praise to the Lord for guiding the CAC through an eventful quadrennium, during which the latter half saw a number of significant changes. The Rev Dr Goh* bookended his current presidency by sharing how his heart was filled with joy and peace as he prepared his President’s Report because he is “deeply aware of His presence with us; as John Wesley said on 2 March 1791: ‘Best of all, God is with us.’”

The Rev Dr Goh reflected on the impact of the pandemic on the CAC churches. He noted that even though many activities and ministries were curtailed or aborted, it was a chance to pause collectively and reflect on the Church’s real purpose. He exhorted the local churches to press on and continue to be bold in revisiting ministry paradigms, organisational structures and existing traditions in order to meet the challenges of the next quadrennium and beyond.

The Rev Dr Goh also spoke of God’s timing, drawing attention to the speedy adoption of the Central Pooling (CP) initiative launched in 2018. He had initially wanted to kickstart the exercise in 2019 for implementation in 2020. This timeline would have been severely disrupted by the pandemic and would have posed serious challenges for the CAC. In His wisdom, God enabled the project to be passed two full years earlier.

“Because the CP exercise took place in 2018, we also managed to kick off the transformation task force, in a way, that helped prepare the minds of our people for needed changes and adaptations. CP has helped us to be more united and be at a better position to ride out the storms. My heart is filled with awe and thanksgiving. God made everything beautiful in His time,” said the Rev Dr Goh.

In addition, the Rev Dr Goh reiterated the importance of disciple-making and that, even as the CAC has done well on the macro fronts, God also looks at the micro aspects of church work, namely the reaching of the lost and needy. He highlighted the current pandemic as a wake-up call to share the Gospel with those around us as well as to disciple the nations.

The Rev Dr Goh also emphasised the reality of spiritual warfare and the importance of living out our faith in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe in. He cautioned against being in a position where the Church has the form but not the power.

“Our beliefs impact our ethics. We need to recover the sense of the total aspect of our faith, not just in belief but in practice. Our beliefs are revealed through the way we act and the moral choices we make. The two are intertwined and cannot be separated easily. A down-slide in our ethics and morality will very quickly lead to a change in theology, as we have seen in the West.”

Looking ahead to the new quadrennium, the Rev Dr Goh shared his vision for CAC: “I hope to see a CAC that constantly abides in Christ…and manifests the following four characteristics namely, passion and zeal for evangelism, disciple-making, strong connectionism that is expressed not only in the itinerant system of pastors but also in gifts and resources, strategic partnership of ministries and mission and lastly, having innovative and engaging ministries in witnessing for God.”

 

“Worship anywhere, but not anyhow”

 The closing service included the ordination of Elders and Deacons as well as announcement of retirements, including that of Bishop Dr Chong.

Bishop-Elect Dr Gordon Wong, in his sermon, stressed the significant role that incoming members of the clergy will play in the spiritual lives of their flock. He drew a parallel between Jesus’ words of the day when believers “will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21) with the current situation of physical church services and ministries being disrupted. He urged the Church to consider how it can impress upon members that worshipping God can take place anywhere and any day, and not just in church on Sundays.

True worship occurs when believers do so in harmony with the Holy Spirit. “God is both truth and spirit, and worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth,” he concluded.

*The Rev Dr Gregory Goh Nai Lat was re-elected CAC President during the Session.

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Ordained Deacons
Pr Bernard Chng Chun Yong
Pr Patrick Lim Kok Chu
Pr Lin Ming Zhong
Pr Joshua Ong Chee Xiang
Pr Nathanael Goh Jun Chuen
Pr Florence Ngu Siew Ning
Pr Wang HaiBin

Retired pastors
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung
Rev Goh Aik Hiang
Rev Yeung Hin Fai

Jason Woo is the Communications Executive at MCS Comms. / Photos courtesy of the Chinese Annual Conference

 

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