A rainy evening on 4 Dec 2020 marked a new chapter in the history of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), when the Rev Dr Gordon Wong was consecrated as Bishop for MCS’s 12th quadrennium. Bishop Dr Wong was elected Bishop at the General Conference Session earlier this year in September.1
The service was held at Wesley Methodist Church (MC), the oldest Methodist church in Singapore. Scaled down due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was attended by close to 100 congregants. Around 800 others watched the service online via livestreaming.2
Invited guests included Bishop Dr Wong’s family and friends, church leaders, Methodist pastors-in-charge, heads of Methodist agencies, Methodist school principals and invited media. Also in attendance were leaders from other denominations: the Most Rev Archbishop William Goh of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore; NCCS President and Synod Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the Rt Rev Keith Lai; Lutheran Bishop Terry Kee; Anglican Bishop the Rt Rev Titus Chung; Col Rodney Walters from The Salvation Army Singapore; the Rev Dr Chua Chung Kai from the Evangelical Free Church, and the Rev Ezekiel Tan from the Evangelical Alliance of Singapore.
Bishop Dr Wong’s family, including his wife, Lai Foon, who is the Resident Conductor of the Methodist Festival Choir, and his children, Deborah and Jeremy, also joined the service. His father, 98-year-old Cecil Wong, insisted on being there, despite his difficulty in walking.
Bishop Dr Wong embarked on his calling as a Methodist pastor in 1986. He has served as a pastor with Fairfield MC and Barker Road MC, as well as Pastor-in-Charge of Cairnhill MC, Christ MC and Covenant Community MC. He taught for 17 years at Trinity Theological College, where he was the Bishop William F. Oldham Professor of Old Testament. He was elected President of the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) and served from 2012 to 2020 before he was elected from among the 46 eligible candidates to the office of the Bishop of MCS for the quadrennium 2020–24. He will serve as spiritual leader to 44,000 Methodists in 46 churches as well as to the 15 Methodist schools and other Methodist agencies such as Methodist Welfare Services and the Methodist Missions Society. He takes over from Bishop Emeritus Dr Chong Chin Chung, who is retiring after serving as Bishop from 2016–2020.
The consecration service was presided over by Bishop Emeritus Dr Chong, who prayed over Bishop Dr Wong along with the Presidents from the three Annual Conferences: the Rev Philip Abraham (Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference), the Rev Dr Gregory Goh Nai Lat (Chinese Annual Conference) and the Rev Stanley Chua (TRAC).
Bishop Dr Wong’s first sermon in his new role was entitled, “Groan, Groan, Groan”. “No,” he explained light-heartedly, “the sermon title does not describe my feeling on being consecrated as the next Bishop of MCS.”
The groaning he referred to comes from Romans 8:22–28: Creation groans (v22); humans groan (v23); and the Holy Spirit groans (v26). “The created world was good, very good, but corruption and decay has afflicted it. Famines, earthquakes, floods, drought and yes—pandemics,” Bishop Dr Wong said.
But in the rest of the passage, the Apostle Paul used the word “hope” six times. “We do groan,” Bishop Dr Wong elaborated, “but we do not groan as those without hope. We groan but with eager expectation—the hope that one day we will no longer need to groan.” And while we anticipate that hope, we should, as John Wesley preached, “employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree […] to all people.”3
“In so doing, we obey the greatest commandment in Scripture, which is to love God by loving our neighbour. In this world of pain and pandemic, to love our neighbour means to groan with fellow human beings, to offer hope, and work with God to bring whatever good we can out of the bad that surrounds us all.”
As MCS’s 12th session of the General Conference adjourned with the end of the service, the three Bishops Emeriti—Dr Chong, Dr Robert Solomon, Dr Wee Boon Hup—as well as Bishop Dr Wong pronounced in Chinese, Tamil, English and Biblical Greek respectively, the Apostle Paul’s Benediction from the end of 2 Corinthians 13: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.” It was a fitting reflection of the rich multicultural and multilingual culture that is MCS.
1 “The Rev Dr Gordon Wong appointed Bishop-Elect,” Methodist Message, October 2020, 3.
3 In the concluding paragraph of John Wesley’s sermon, “The Right Use of Money” (Luke 16:9).
Sheri Goh is the Editor of Methodist Message. / Photos courtesy of MCS Comms and Daniel Lie