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It’s time for Asian Methodists to proclaim Gospel with one voice: Bishop Dr Solomon

FIRST ASIAN METHODIST CONVENTION IN SEOUL: June 14-18, 2002

THE time has come for the Methodists in Asia to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with one heart and one voice so that God can be glorified.

This was stated by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon in his keynote address to the 300 participants at the First Asian Methodist Convention, which was held in Seoul from June 14 to 18, 2002.

The present and future are full of promise for the missionary enterprise in Asia, he said. Doors are being opened, and the interest is there in what are, despite less apparent weaknesses, vibrant Christian churches in Asia.

Venture to new fields where there are no Methodist churches, Bishop
Dr Solomon urges delegates to the First Asian Methodist Convention.
— Methodist Message picture.

The number of non-Western missionaries now exceeds the number of Western missionaries, he added.

“We are only just beginning. Many more Asian missions and missionaries will emerge. Combine this ecclesiastical trend with socio-economic realities; the 21st Century has been described as the century of the Asia-Pacific region. The potential is vast. For the present, regionalisation and globalisation have produced greater international mobility, which is promising to become an important vehicle for the propagation of the Christian Gospel.

The Singapore delegation at the all-glass Immanuel Church before the start of the Special Convention on June 16.

“Financial resources are growing and there is greater confidence in the churches. However, we must also realise that there are many poor people in Asia. Once closed countries are opening their doors in the hope of improving the lot of the poor, though questions have been raised whether the money that is pouring in is really trickling down to the poor. Traditional cultures and lifestyles are being threatened by rapid social and economic changes. Social pathology is becoming more evident.

“These observations raise several theological questions that must be examined by the church, which is increasingly engaged in mission. We also need to find ways of doing mission with humility and wisdom, with the hope that as we listen to the moving of the Spirit of God amidst the winds of changes that are sweeping across Asia, and move on with obedience, we will end up doing more good than harm, so that the name of God can truly be glorified.”

Bishop Dr Solomon said that the Asian church should be more involved in mission work because it was in the position of the biblical Antioch and there were large numbers of Asian Christians — about 316.5 million Christians in Asia (in 50 countries).

Bishop Dr Solomon presenting a pewter ware gift to Bishop Chang Kwang Young, the first President of the Asian Methodist Council.

He cautioned, however, that “we have to do away with misunderstandings related to tithing and prosperity and think carefully of stewardship and responsibility. Money has to be used responsibly as it can also give the power to fall into temptation”.

He said: “We are challenged to continue proclaiming the truth, especially the centrality of Christ in a world of religions, money and technique. God is reconciling the world to Himself through Christ and that is our hope (Col. 1:15-23).

“In an Asia that has seen much suffering and continues to see suffering, evil, and injustice, we have to maintain the centrality of the cross in our message and methods.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

He urged Methodists to venture to new fields where there were no Methodist churches, such as East Timor, Mongolia, Nepal, Laos and Bhutan.

He said there were about 15 million Asian migrants, “a mission field within our own countries”.

There were about 2 million Christians from the Wesleyan tradition in the countries represented in this convention. “Through partnerships and strategic sharing of resources, we may reach Asia for Christ in a more effective manner. There is a need for greater unity and co-operation.

“It is interesting that in the postmodern times that we live in, there seems to be a certain pluralisation (or more negatively, fragmentation) of the missionary enterprise. The temptation is to build our own little kingdoms. This is easy to do if we have the money, and the people we go to desperately need the money. Those engaged in mission need to work together so that resources are better utilised and so that we do not ultimately end up serving ourselves.”

He said there was a great need to develop different kinds and levels of leadership for the churches. This has to include both clergy and lay.

He said that opportunities existed for Asian Methodists to rediscover Wesleyan spirituality and interpret it “for our Asian contexts so that it can be meaningful for us and enrich the larger worldwide Methodist family”.

Wives of Korean pastors presenting a song at the closing session of the convention on June 18.

VAST POTENTIAL

‘Many more Asian missions and missionaries will emerge … The potential is vast. For the present, regionalisation and globalisation have produced greater international mobility, which is promising to become an important vehicle for the propagation of the Christian Gospel.’

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