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Lay leaders want more dialogues for ‘in-depth discussions’


LAY LEADERS from the three Annual Conferences have expressed their desire to hold more frequent “open dialogues” among themselves and with the Bishop.

They added that these sessions should be extended over a longer period of time for greater depth of discussion, and some even suggested a retreat over a day or two.

They were commenting on the “usefulness and benefits” of such dialogues following Bishop Dr Robert Solomon’s Lunch Fellowship with them at Methodist Centre on April 16.

The Bishop initiated the dialogues in 2001. He meets the lay leaders as well as the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) twice a year to talk about issues that concern our Methodist Church and other related matters. The objectives are to strengthen our Methodist connection, keep our lay leaders abreast of developments, and “keep alive” our rich Methodist tradition and heritage.

Indeed, the theme for the April 16 fellowship was “Remembering our Heritage”, an appropriate theme in the wake of the 120th Anniversary this year of the founding of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS). The MCS has planned four main celebratory projects, including the Aldersgate Convention 2005 from May 24 to 28, and the on-going Methodist Heritage Tour, a half-day coach tour which highlights the earliest Methodist churches and schools, and institutions associated with Methodist history.

Addressing the 70 lay leaders, Bishop Dr Solomon said God has blessed the MCS abundantly with His presence, visionaries such as James Thoburn and William Oldham, missionaries, servants and great institutions.

He told them that they should not forget their focus on personal and social holiness, retain their passion for mission, and continue to “strengthen our connection that unites us all in Jesus Christ”. “These are important aspects of our Methodist heritage that we must keep.”

The gathering broke up into seven groups for discussions on the theme, and because of the shortage of time, only three groups were able to make their presentations at the plenary session.

This led several leaders to appeal to the Bishop after the session to hold longer dialogues, and more frequently, and to consider organising retreats.

Dr Hum Sin Hoon, LCEC Chairman of Trinity Methodist Church, found the Bishop’s Fellowship useful and wondered whether such gatherings could cover a longer period of time to allow for greater discussion.

He also said that there was a need for clear guidance on doctrinal issues.

Mr Philip Ng, Lay Leader of Wesley Methodist Church, found the lunch fellowship “too short, but very useful”.

He said: “I wish there would be a longer time for such sessions so that the Bishop could answer our queries and we could hear one another out more fully.

“Today, for example, we heard views from only three groups. Because of time, we didn’t have the chance to hear what members of the other groups had to say. We need more time for discussion and sharing of views.” Added Mrs Tan Peck Yin, Lay Leader of Christ Methodist Church:

“If there are group discussions, then it is important that more time should be allotted so that the various groups can have a good exchange of views and then have enough time to share those views with one another. I would say we need at least a day for a fruitful discussion.

“Also, there should be enough time for us to have a meaningful dialogue with the Bishop, especially on important church issues. I’m glad I came and heard what the Bishop had to say about our Methodist heritage, which I think is very important for us to know and cherish.

“We must not forget our Methodist heritage. We must know, for example, the links between our churches and schools, and what the Methodist Schools’ Foundation is doing and why we must give our support. If, as Methodists, we don’t support the Foundation and our schools, who will?”

An Associate Lay Leader of Pentecost Methodist Church, Mrs Josephine Poore, felt that a two-day retreat would be ideal for everyone to have a good discussion. “It would also be a good opportunity for leaders of the various churches from the three Annual Conferences to get to know one another, and more importantly, to hear the various views,” she added.

Mr Eddie Koh, LCEC Vice- Chairman of Covenant Community Methodist Church, told the gathering that there was a declining interest in Methodism among the young people.

Some find Methodism too structured, and they said they “find it easier to be a member of God’s Kingdom than to be a member of the Methodist Church”.

“How much of Methodism is being taught to the younger generation?” asked Mr Koh, who was presenting his group’s views at the plenary session. He added that some “senior people are not even aware of our Methodist tradition”.

To which, Bishop Dr Solomon said: “We Methodists have priceless pearls under our own pillows. We do have a rich heritage, and we need to rediscover our heritage.”

The LCEC Vice-Chairman of Pentecost Methodist Church, Mr Christopher Tay, raised several points discussed by his group, such as the lack of emphasis on personal witnessing, the lack of accountability especially in small groups, education as a vehicle for evangelism and holistic growth, and the problem of untrained leaders taking office.

He also touched on the Methodist heritage of the connectional system, and asked: “Do we have common beliefs and practices, such as sacraments and doctrines?”

His colleague from the church, Mr Tay Chee Khiam, the Lay Leader, listed aspects of the Methodist heritage that the Methodist Church should continue to emphasise on as: Being mission-minded, social holiness and the Methodist connection.

His group felt that certain doctrines and practices, such as the participation at Holy Communion and healing should be discussed, and there must be “a common stand” for beliefs of such importance.


◆ Do not forget our focus on personal and social holiness

◆ Retain our passion for mission

◆ Continue to strengthen our connection that unites us all in Jesus Christ