Asian Methodist Bishops swop updates on new church work


IN THE midst of rapid changes and challenges in the region, Asian Methodist Bishops met in Singapore recently to share common goals and update one another on new developments in church work in their respective countries.

The Annual Gathering of the Fellowship of Asian Methodist Bishops (FAMB) at the YWCA Fort Canning Lodge on June 22 and 23, 2008 received situation reports from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and host Singapore.

Immediately after the meeting ended, the delegates proceeded to Johor Bahru to attend the Second General Assembly of the Asian Methodist Council from June 24 to 27.

Here are snapshots of the situation reports:

■ In the past few years, poverty alleviation has become one of the major directions of The Methodist Church, Hong Kong because of the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

Presenting his report, the Rev Dr Li Ping-kwong, a past president of The Methodist Church, Hong Kong, said: “We are happy to see increasing cooperation among our local churches, schools and social service agencies serving the needy and new arrivals in Hong Kong.

“We have continued to work ecumenically to voice out Christian views on social issues and to launch campaigns and projects to alleviate the plights of the underprivileged, including the setting up of food banks.”

The Rev Dr Li, who was attending the FAMB meeting on behalf of the Rev Professor Lo Lung-kwong, President of The Methodist Church, Hong Kong, said they would continue to support financially the Chinese ministries of The Methodist Church in Britain as they had done in the past 15 years.

As for mainland China, they continue to support churches and seminaries through the China Christian Council and the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

■ In his report, Bishop E. P. Samuel of The Methodist Church in India, said the church in India today faces many major challenges:

“Firstly, people are suffering because of poverty, conflicts, diseases, unemployment, negative impact of economic globalisation and war on terrorism. Secondly, the nuclear threat looms large, and thirdly, religious conflicts, racial violence and territorial disputes have led to mass killings.

“Therefore, it is imperative for the church to promote life-enriching morality and spirituality in order to be witnesses for Jesus and help bring peace to the world.”

On the positive side, Bishop Samuel said the Methodist Church is seeing “a great awakening among our youth” and successful young Methodist professionals are showing “a keen desire to give back to the church which nurtured them – they are coming forward wholeheartedly to support church projects”.

■ Bishop Enoch Kuey of The Methodist Church in Taiwan reported that membership has risen slightly in 2007 and the church has established the Day Care Centre for the Elderly and Wesley Community Service Centre in the city of Kaohsiung.

“The theme for our work this year is ‘Charity and Outreach’, this being the year of social service. In 2009, our theme will be ‘Spiritual revival, Soul saving’, and we will evangelise to save people by means of courses and faith-sharing,” he said.

■ The Korean Methodist Church (KMC) reported that cooperation with world churches has been expanding since the late 1990s. More than 20 churches in the world have worked together with the KMC through its Partnership Agreement.

There are now 758 Korean Methodist missionaries in 73 countries in the world. This number will rise to 1,000, including ministers of the Korean Methodist churches serving abroad.

The KMC is also providing assistance to a seminary in communist North Korea.

■ Touching on the challenges faced by The Methodist Church in Malaysia (MCM), Bishop Hwa Yung said in his report that the MCM is developing a comprehensive vision for the life of the church; nurturing a prayer movement; revamping its work in education through schools and colleges; and strategising its programmes for social outreach and nation-building.

Elaborating, he said the church would focus on evangelism and church-planting, discipleship, church and society and missions.

■ Ministry to migrant workers, both land and sea-based, remains as one of the core programmes of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines. Pastors are being sent to minister to Filipino migrant workers and other nationalities all over the world. “We have Filipino pastors in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, England, Dubai, Italy, Canada, the United States and other parts of the globe.”

The church also has a ministry to indigenous communities and a ministry to street children.

■ Bishop Dr Robert Solomon highlighted in his report that The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) supports the need for religious harmony.

“The escape of Mas Selamat Kastari, leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, from detention in Singapore, as well as the release of the film ‘Fitna the Movie’ by the Dutch politician Geert Wilders which denigrates Islam, presented a test in our inter-racial and inter-religious harmony.

“Through the Inter-Racial Confidence Circles and the Community Engagement Programmes, we continue to have dialogue and engagement with people of other faiths to build confidence, friendship and trust with each other.”

On the work of the MCS, he reported on the following areas of ministry: Educational mission, social service hubs, social concerns, missions work and the Women’s Society of Christian Service.

The MCS runs 13 primary and secondary schools, a junior college, a school of music and an international school in Jakarta in partnership with Sekolah Tiara Bangsa. There are more than 22,800 students enrolled in the academic schools, half of whom are Christians.

On social concerns, he reported that the MCS has been working on relief efforts in the aftermath of recent natural disasters in Myanmar and Sichuan, China.

Through the Methodist Missions Society, the MCS has planted 21 churches and 15 preaching points in Cambodia, China, Nepal, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.