Features, Highlights

Methodist Mission in Cambodia holds historic Annual Meeting

Four-in-one celebration brings blessings to many people

A FOUR-IN-ONE celebration of God’s goodness in Cambodia brought multiple blessings to many people, including Singaporeans, Malaysians, Hong Kongers and Americans besides the Cambodians.

First, The Methodist Mission in Cambodia held a historic Second Annual Meeting at Toul Kork Methodist Church in the compound of The Methodist Centre on Sept 1 and 2. All the bishops of the five Partnering Churches – The Methodist Church in Singapore, The United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Church Switzerland-France, The Korean Methodist Church and the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches – and their delegations were present.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, speaking as the Presiding Bishop, said: “This is a very interesting time as we move together in creating a unified Methodist church in Cambodia.”

The following day, at the same venue, three Cambodian pastors were ordained as elders – the Rev Lun Sophy, who is being supported financially by the Methodist Missions Society (MMS); the Rev (Ms) Treoung Chan Bony; and the Rev Hem San. They are the first Cambodian elders.

In January 2003 in Zurich, the bishops of the five Partnering Churches signed a document in a spirit of unity expressing a clear intent to move towards one Methodist Church in Cambodia. The following year in Phnom Penh, a formal declaration was made to form one Methodist Mission in Cambodia.

Since then, several attempts have been made to set up an ecclesial structure and bring it in line with other Methodist churches worldwide.

Cambodia will now have seven districts and each district will be headed by a district superintendent.

Also on Sept 1, there was a Dedication Service for Emmaus Women’s Centre in Beung Anchagn Village, outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. This service and the centre’s Official Opening, which followed immediately, were not only a joyous occasion for the guests and people from various countries but also a tangible expression of God’s love for the centre’s residents as well as other Cambodians.

A group of about 40 Singaporeans were among the guests. Among them were Mrs Malar Solomon; the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot, President of the Chinese Annual Conference; the Rev Wee Boon Hup, President of Trinity Annual Conference; Mr Kim Seah, The Secretary of the Trustees of The Methodist Church in Singapore; Mrs Laureen Ong, President of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service; the Rev Dr Clarence Lim, MMS Director; the Rev Ajit Hazra, MMS Field Director; Col (Retd) Quek Koh Eng, MMS Home Director; and the Rev Philip Lim, MMS Country Coordinator for Cambodia. Immediately after the Official Opening by Mr Ith Sam Heng, the Cambodian Minister of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, bags of rice were distributed to the villagers surrounding the centre and packets of biscuits, chocolates and sweets were given to the school children in the village. They were gifts from the MMS.

The newly-built Emmaus Women’s Centre itself is a gift from the MMS to the women of Cambodia. Started in 1996, it aims to help Cambodian women find a better life by teaching them to acquire literacy, vocational and social skills that will help them to earn a living (See Page 7).

At the Second Annual Meeting of The Methodist Mission in Cambodia, Bishop Dr Solomon said: “From the beginning we were not sure how this church would progress, but by God’s grace we decided to come together to form a unified church. We are still in that journey, we are still making progress.”

He said this Annual Meeting was historic. The first milestone was to bring all the pastors together, and this was achieved two years ago when Cambodians were ordained as deacons.

The second milestone was to bring together all the congregations so that they belong to one unified church in Cambodia. “This Annual Meeting is very significant,” he said, “because we are going to take that second step now.”

The third milestone will be the coming together of all the agencies. “We must praise God who has led us thus far.”

At the Ordination Service Bishop Dr Solomon reminded the three ordinands and the congregation to be humble, to have integrity, and to be loyal to Jesus.

He related how Jesus did a “shocking thing” when He took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into the basin, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.

He told the three ordinands: “The ordination of elders is more than a promotion. It is a call to humble service.”

On integrity, he said: “Integrity in ministry is greatly needed. There must be holiness of life, transparency, honesty in ministry when seen and unseen.”

Turning to loyalty, he said lack of loyalty could come in many forms. Betraying Jesus due to self-centredness or denying Jesus because of fear. Or disobedience, or even pride, when the servant behaves as if he is the master.

“With humility and integrity, be loyal to Jesus,” he concluded.

Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.