Happenings, News

Response needed to new challenges: TRAC President


SIGNIFICANT changes have taken place in Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) and they present challenges which need a response.

This was stated by the Rev Wee Boon Hup, President of TRAC, in his address on the second day of the 31st Session of the conference on Nov 21, 2006 at Living Hope Methodist Church.

The session opened on Nov 20 and ended on the evening of Nov 23 with a Closing-cum-Ordination Service.

The Rev Wee dealt with a number of issues. The first of these was the numerical growth of several churches, some of which had the capacity to “go it alone” and hence become less dependent on TRAC, thereby weakening the Methodist connexional system. This may need careful examination.

Following this was the need to develop leadership among the younger lay and pastoral ministers. The present cohort of leaders have built up an understanding of the Methodist system which they should learn and share with each other, while keeping in touch with developments in each other’s churches.

Related to leadership development is a specific need to develop pastors.

At the 2005 conference, the Rev Wee had raised the issue of developing a course for Pastors-in-Charge (PICs), a report on which was presented by the Human Resource Task Force at this year’s session. One of its chief recommendations is that the Pastor Development Programme should be for all pastors as the pastoral ministry is a team effort, and requires good team members, some of whose potential to be PICs might show up in the course of the programme.

Also related to leadership was a view suggesting an end to the “iron rice bowl” system for pastors, a view the Rev Wee supported.

The challenge faced by TRAC has come about when PICs or Pastor-Parish Relations and Staff Committees (PPRSCs) find a pastor unacceptable, although the Discipline provides that a minister in good standing is entitled to an appointment.

It may be possible to develop a system whereby alternative avenues of ministry may be found for them without their being financially dependent on TRAC. Provision needs to be made for such pastors to be counselled and given an opportunity to change and continue in ministry.

“Still,” said the Rev Wee, “there may be cases where it is best that we part company.”

“We have not yet fine-tuned our system where we lead such pastors to exit graciously.”

Currently, what are provided for are judicial processes like disciplining and levelling charges against them.

“Surely we can devise an exit strategy where we do not have to subject ourselves to acrimony,” said the Rev Wee. Next, he dealt with the question of financing new church buildings that has increased in the past few years. Four churches are still in need – Living Hope Methodist Church, Trinity, Agape and Cairnhill. They are likely to require funding for some years before they are debt-free.

Perhaps, the more affluent Methodists could be addressed to re-align their perspectives about their wealth, and even make provisions for Methodists to leave a financial inheritance for the church. This type of education will take effort and sensitivity.

“A working group will be formed to study the ways in which this can be publicised and solicited,” said the Rev Wee.

At the Closing-cum-Ordination Service on Nov 23, the Rev Wee said in his sermon that the people of God were called to a ministry of reconciliation.

There are three points to remember in the ministry of reconciliation:

* It is God’s initiative;

* God reconciled us to Himself; we have not reconciled ourselves to God; and

* God does not count our sin against us.

In his message entitled “Setting Others Free”, he said it was important to carry the message of reconciliation. “We need to have the love of God and carry the true message of love.”

On the righteousness of God, he said righteousness was not about being perfect or being faultless. Righteousness was about being Christ-like.

“Righteousness is about being all that God requires a person to be, and all that that person could never be in himself or herself,” he added.

The sermon over, the Rev Wee then installed the TRAC Vice-President, Dr Wu Dar Ching, who had been re-elected at the conference session two days earlier.

This was followed by the ordinations of three Deacons and three Elders by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon.

Mr Christopher Chin, Ms Lynette Sathiasingam and Ms Wendy Watson were ordained as Deacons. Each of them was presented with a Bible at the end of the ordination.

The Bishop next ordained the Rev Barnabas Chong Chien Chih, the Rev William Sam Kin Leong and the Rev Terence Yeo Ah Sen. They were also given a Bible each in addition to a stole.

Then came the moment many in the congregation had been waiting for – the reading of pastors’ appointments for 2007.

Many could not contain their joy, and when their pastors’ names were called out they welcomed the announcements with cheers of “yeah” and “wow”. Some even whistled, which led the Rev Wee to say: “I like your enthusiasm. I hope you will continue to support your pastors after this evening.”

Two new Pastors-in-Charge were appointed. The Rev Edwin Wong was appointed Pastor-in-Charge of Toa Payoh Methodist Church to replace the Rev Derrick Lau, who was posted to Kampong Kapor Methodist Church as Pastor.

The Rev Dianna Khoo was named the Pastor-in-Charge of Trinity Methodist Church in place of the Rev Philip Lim, who will be on sabbatical leave from January 2007.

The Rev Melvin Huang was appointed the new District Superintendent (East), taking over from the Rev Dr Jonathan Seet, who was named the District Superintendent (West). The Rev Kow Shih Ming was made the new DS (Central), filling in the Rev Huang’s previous position.