TRAC President's Address (36th Session 2011)
ESV Joshua 10:12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.
|| Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
President, Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia
As our world was unprecedentedly rocked by what happened on the 11 March 2011 in Japan, I am reminded of the magnitude of this great miracle during Joshua’s time that was unprecedented and unrepeated, as far as we know in Scripture. The Time magazine in its special report by Nancy Gibbs on 28 March 2011 said, “The 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 was powerful enough to shift the earth on its axis and make it spin a little faster, shortening the day by 1.8 millionths of a second. It shoved the island nation one parking space to the east. But what felt like the end was only the beginning.” The same writer went on to say, “We sleep easy in the soft arms of clichés: hope for the best, prepare for the worst; risk varies inversely with knowledge; it’s a waste of time to think about the unthinkable. But Japan shook those soothing assumptions. No amount of planning, no skills or specs (specifications) or spreadsheets, can stop a force that moves the planet.” The world watched with bated breath as this nation struggled to contain the damage at her nuclear reactors in Fukushima. The world mourned with Japan as an estimated 20,000 people were reported killed or missing, 400,000 were displaced, and 800,000 homes completely or partially destroyed in this catastrophe. Our TRAC family gave about RM 135,000 for this needy cause.
Other countries like China, New Zealand and Turkey have also experienced earthquakes of gigantic proportion. Our neighbours, Thailand, recently experienced severe floods that saw more than 400 perishing. It crippled Bangkok the capital with an estimated loss of US$3 to 6 billion. Malaysia has been put on high alert as we are expected to be the next country that will be affected at the end of this year.
This has indeed been an extraordinary year filled with events of “earth shaking impact” that unhinged established governments across the world. The newly coined “Arab Spring” uprising, saw the overthrow of autocratic regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The governments in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain were rattled. Nicholas Kulish (New Straits Times 3 Oct 2011) made the commentary that “Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favour of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.” So it is reported that Israa Abdel Fattah of Egypt co-founded with Ahmed Maher the youth movement in 2008, which began on the social network - the Facebook. This movement had played a vital function in maintaining the direction and non-violent character of the uprisings in Egypt. Indeed social networking sites like Facebook (which is 7 years old and has grown by about 100 million users a year, and currently has 750 million users) and Twitter (which is 5 years old and has over 200 million users) do have “limitless possibilities”.
The Arab Spring uprisings powerfully remind us that freedom is an inerasable and universal longing in every human heart - an inalienable right. People yearn to be free from oppression, intimidation, manipulation and corrupt governance.
The “tsunami” on the moral front is when we read about “Lax rules in the US, Canada result in anonymous dads fathering dozens” (The Star, 11 Oct 2011). In this article it is reported that a man had sired “some 500 to 1000 children during his three decades working with sperm banks”! This article also quoted Juliet Guichon (professor of bio-ethics, University of Calgary) as saying that “Sperm giving is a market-driven phenomenon. What is governing this is market consideration, not consideration for the best interest of children. And that is why we have this outcome.” Other outcomes include the danger of inadvertent incest, increasing the risk of transmission of genetic diseases and malformations. Others have tried to create “designer babies” – by careful selection of genes or characteristics from a donor!
Obituaries of global impact include the death of Osama ben Laden on 2 May 2011. This mastermind of terrorism that cost about 3000 American lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept 11 2001 was finally killed by US Navy SEALs and CIA paramilitary forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. To many, justice was finally done after a decade of manhunt for the world’s most wanted man.
Then there was the death of Col Muammar Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. He had ruled Libya with an iron fist from 1969 until August this year. He was killed by forces loyal to the new government.
The worldwide Christian community was saddened by the news of the death of John R W Stott (aged 91) on the 27 July 2011. Billy Graham’s spokesperson released the following from the world renowned evangelist: “The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I get to heaven.” His life, books and ministry is dominated by the Bible and filled with an unavoidable sense of Christ-centred mission. He was a key founding member of the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelisation.
In the local “Church and State” front, the Malaysian Church had to contend with very serious issues as well. The use of “Allah” issue (2009) is still pending a final ruling from the Court of Appeal, as the Christian community insists that “Allah” has been traditionally used by the Malaysian Church, especially in East Malaysia. The Catholic publication, The Herald, had won the case against the Home Minister’s revocation order of its publication permit. The import of the Alkitab, at least for the time being seems to be permissible. This is after strong protestations from the Christian community in March when 30,000 copies were impounded at Port Klang and Kuching. Then there was the “Utusan Malaysia had reported on the gathering of priests in Penang recently that allegedly discusses making Christianity the official religion of the country” (New Straits Times 13 May 2011) saga. That led the Muslim Organisation in Defence of Islam, Pembela, asking police to probe Utusan’s Christian Malaysia report (The Malaysian Insider, 7 May 2011).
Then came the unprecedented Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) “search” on the 3 August 2011 of the Damansara Utama Methodist Church premises, when a Thanksgiving Dinner organised by Harapan Komuniti was taking place. This was purportedly done on grounds that this was a Christian proselytization event which could not be supported. The Sultan of Selangor had intervened to defuse the situation, by issuing a statement later that included saying, “Therefore, after carefully deliberating the report by Jais and after obtaining advice from religious authorities and legal experts, We are in agreement that there would be no prosecution against any parties.” (The Star, 11 October 2011). We are glad that the Selangor Menteri Besar had also said that “a committee would be set up by the state government to study ways to strengthen the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department’s (Jais) standard operating procedure” (The Star, 11 October 2011; see Appendix B Methodist Episcopal/COP response). Whilst we may be a marked and scrutinised community, it also gives us the opportunity to exemplify the message and the values of the Kingdom of God. Let us as a community remain vigilant as we are also facing other serious issues such as the implementation of Hudud law in Malaysia.
The outline of this address is as follows:
I. Reviewing the Implementation of the Vision of TRAC (2010-2013)
II. Some Other Concerns in our Annual Conference
III. News from the Wider Connection
I. Reviewing the Implementation of the Vision of TRAC (2010-2013)
As an Annual Conference, we continue to pursue our General Conference theme of Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation. Our 4 essentials are Lifelong Discipleship – Following Christ, Becoming like Christ, Wholesome Families- Growing Strong Families in Christ, A Voice to Our Nation – Seeking our Nation’s Welfare in Christ, and A Vision for the World – Embracing Local and Global Missions for Christ (See Appendix C). These are consonant with the General Conference Road Map launched on 2010 for the Methodist Church in Malaysia.
Our 39 local churches are “together on the same page” with the GC vision and goals, albeit variation on emphases and types of action and programs are to be expected. This is due to contextual considerations and “indigenous” factors of calling, resources and other “givens” of their respective locations. We are “warming up” - as we enter into the second year of the 4 Essentials.
By and large, our organisations such as the Methodist Women and Methodist Senior Fellowship have also pursued the same vision and goals. This is reflected in their national camps and conventions, and also in their local chapter programmes.
A. LIFELONG DISCIPLESHIP
The United Nation’s State of World Population Report 2011 stated that the 7 billionth person was born on 31 October 2011. It is also forecasted that the global population will be 8 billion come 2025. In Malaysia the population has doubled in 30 years – from 13.7 million in 1980 to 28.3 million in 2010. There will be long-term rising spiritual and physical demands and implications for our country as our government grapples with basic needs such as food, education, jobs, shelter, healthcare, transportation etc. The Church needs to also shape our outreach and witnessing approaches appropriately as we respond as “salt and light” to this fast changing demographics. Urbanisation has meant that “Currently, 7 out of 10 Malaysians live in cities and towns, up from 6 in 2000” (Abdul Jalil Hamid, New Sunday Times, 30 Oct 2011).
Missiologists Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross in their study have identified the “5 marks of Global Mission” in the 21st century. These are: 1. to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. 2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers. 3. To respond to human need by loving service. 4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society. 5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
As we pursue lifelong discipleship as an AC - we continue to give priority to spiritual transformation. This is the process by which disciples of Christ enter into a lifetime development by which Christ is formed in us for the glory of God, for abundance of living in our own lives, and for the sake of and service to others. Ruth Barton reminds Christian leaders to be on a lifelong journey of transformation, that “Spiritual leadership emerges from our willingness to stay involved with our own soul – that place where God’s Spirit is at work stirring up our deepest questions and longings to draw us deeper into relationship with Him.”
The essential place of small groups shall continue to be emphasised in our AC life for training, spiritual health, tracking accountability, renewal, community building and effective implementation of AC direction. The ICM Board will work together with the Christian Education Board and other Boards to see how we can further deepen our understanding of the philosophy, practice, form and training for Small Groups within the pastoral caring and nurture structure for all our TRAC churches. In the recent 12-15 September 2011Special GC Session, it was adopted that “Small groups may be formed as regular groups of preferably 12-14 persons. Members of the local church are strongly encouraged to be members of such small groups.” (Implementation date is 1 Jan 2013).TRAC’s small groups (ie Bible study, care, and cell groups) have dropped from 676 at the end of 2012, to 636 as of June 2011. We must not let up on this emphasis.
Methodist Prayer Convention 2011 [29 April – 1 May 2011]: registered participants were 3350 and about 10,000 attended the Sunday Grand Finale Service at Dataran Sibu (see Appendix D). It was indeed a powerful time of intercession and edification for the Malaysian Methodist family as a whole.
The GCEC decided that the MPC will be held 2 years after each GC Session ie the next one will be in 2014 in W Malaysia. It is most heartening to see the Lord’s Methodist Church in Malaysia recovering and being united in prioritising this imperative of prayer and holiness of the Church’s life.
There was an increase of 7 prayer groups in TRAC as at June 2011 to 119 compared to 2010. The TRAC Pastors Intercession Retreat (#2) with 13 attending also took place. We are also glad that a TRAC Intercession Team has been started in Penang (Northern District) this year.
The ICM Public Lectures (18-20 March 2011, Ipoh) pursued the theme of discipleship in the market place and public square. It was aptly themed – “Taking your soul to work.” The ICM continues to spearhead our discipleship and spirituality thrust through the Spiritual Formation and Leadership weekends, Contemplative and Silent Retreats, and the Soul Talk series (see ICM Director’s Report AC/21). In the coming year the Life-Giving Tools series will be organised to add to our pursuit of Lifelong Discipleship.
The Board of Ministry is looking into the strategy adopted for this Essential which is to challenge our people to take up church-based vocations ie organising a Life-Service Retreat for 2012.
B. WHOLESOME FAMILIES – Growing Strong Families in Christ
More of our TRAC churches are organising Alpha Marriage courses. Some of our pastors have attended the Alpha Marriage courses designed specially for pastoral couples by Alpha Malaysia. Alpha Parenting and Pre-Marital courses are progressively being used in TRAC churches.
As an AC we recognise the importance of the family as the cornerstone of society and the church. We also recognise that there are great forces at work that continue to fracture the family institution. Family development, family ministries and marriage researchers Jack O Balswick and Judith K Balswick highlight 4 continual process elements of Christian family relationships – “(1) commitment is to be based upon a mature (ie unconditional and bilateral) covenant; (2) family life is to be established and maintained within an atmosphere of grace which embraces acceptance and forgiveness; (3) the resources of family members are to be used to empower rather than to control one another; and (4) intimacy is based on a knowing (of one another) that leads to caring, understanding, communication, and communion with others.”
The BOYW has continued to intentionally emphasise the place and role of the family in our youth ministry. This Board has set - To empower parents for working with youth and creating an open atmosphere for engagement of youth issues at home - as one of their goals for this quadrennium.
Let us all be reminded that included in our strategies for this Essential are: Setting up Family Devotion in every home and Introduce inter-generational Family Worship services regularly every year. The strategy of Establish a Think Tank for Family Ministry has been preliminarily discussed but further working on it will have to follow, A few of our churches have taken the initiative to set up such a portfolio in the local church and as a represented concern in the LCEC. Emmanuel Methodist Church under the ministry of Dr Herbert Tan has been in the forefront in developing the Family Ministry vis-à-vis the church setting. He is making some materials available for purchase (such as Family Ministry Consultation DVDs, and various volumes of Family Devotional materials he had produced at EMC. This would include different volumes on Psalms, Gospels, Ephesians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, and Ecclesiastes).
C. VOICE TO OUR NATION – Seeking our Nation’s Welfare in Christ
There is a noticeable increase this year in the number of our churches organising talks by politicians and political analysts, and accompanied by a voter registration exercise. Our members need to be aware of social and political issues wherein we can advocate for just, fair and good governance.
Such “awareness exercises”/ conscientization are important as seen in the 10th Sarawak state election on 16 April this year. Although the Barisan National romped home with a comfortable two-thirds majority, its seats were reduced from 62 in the last state assembly, to 55 (of a total of 71 seats). Joceline Tan of the Star (The Star, 17 April 2011) then commented, “Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was returned to power in the 10th Sarawak election but it was a bittersweet win because it came with unprecedented losses in the Iban and Chinese seats.” She added that “Barisan not only lost Iban-majority seats but saw its victory margins in other Iban seats slide to an all-time low...the Iban support can no longer be taken for granted.”
Let us not underestimate our own position and role as believers in advocating for and effecting changes in nation building as responsible and proactive citizens. In another article, the same writer wrote – “Minority with a major role; Christians make up only 9 % of the country’s population but their willingness to take political positions in recent years suggests that they will be a factor to reckon with in the new political landscape” (The Star, 24 July 2011). She had cited the 2010 Sibu by-election as providing “the first inkling of what could happen when the Christian vote moved en masse.” (See also Appendix E – GCEC 2010 decision).
Malaysians were gratified by the Prime Minister’s Malaysia Day announcement of major changes in controversial laws including the repealing of the draconian Internal Security Act (1960), and the annual licence renewal requirement for newspapers and publications. However, the PM then went on to say that 2 new laws will be enacted to replace the ISA. As concerned citizens of this country, we remain vigilant as to what these replacements are.
As we seek “to be a voice that speaks up for social concerns, social justice and social action”, we are encouraged by lives such as that of the late Raja Aziz Addruse. He had passed away on 12 July 2011 and “is often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ and ‘the best Chief Justice Malaysia never had’” (The Star, 30 Oct 2011). He had believed with great conviction and courage in the rule of law and in representing those who had been treated unfairly. So the Bar Council honoured this man who was a 3-term Bar Council President by naming its auditorium after him.
Then when we read about the 70,000 secondary school dropouts from 2006 to 2010, we remember the life of Dato’ Dr Brother Michael Jacques (died 31 March 2011), the La Salle brother who had immensely contributed to our nation building through his lifetime of dedicated service as an educationist. His life had touched and benefitted many generations of Malaysians from all walks of life – as many of them gratefully acknowledged. Eric Swanson and Sam Williams have aptly said: “Conversion is our ultimate motive but not our ulterior motive in loving and serving others...It is important to remember that we don’t engage in the needs, dreams and pains of our communities so that they become Christians; rather we engage the community because we are Christians.”
It was a joy to know that 7 hearing impaired persons and 2 chaperons from the iHear Ministry of Penang Wesley were able to attend the Asia Deaf Mission Conference in the Philippines on 18-21 October 2011. For many of them it was the first time travelling overseas.
Rodney Stark, former professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington, wrote of how the early church demonstrated the transforming power of love as taught by Christ and given through the Holy Spirit. He said, “Christianity revitalised life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent urban problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows Christianity offered a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing service.”
We rejoice that Whispering Hope Methodist Church was constituted on the 10 July 2011. A preaching point, Bandar Utama Methodist Centre, was launched on the 25 September 2011 by Trinity Methodist Church, PJ. At the same time it is with sadness that the preaching point at Mentakab (Eastern District) had to be closed on the 24 April 2011 due to diminishing membership.
TRAC continues to partner the Lower Myanmar Methodist Church under the leadership of Bishop Saw Shwe in the coming years - helping to rebuild the areas affected by the Nargis cyclone 3 years ago. This phase II of help will see a more “evangelistic impact” approach where amongst other things, together we hope to see the multiplication of congregations/ planting of churches.
The Persidangan Missi Sengoi Methodist (PMSM):theRev Balahu Hassan, a retired PMSM Mission Conference Superintendent, was called home to be with the Lord on 10 Jan 2011 at the age of 65. We thank the Lord for this faithful servant who had left behind a legacy built on love for God and for his own Sengoi people. The pursuit of the Wawasan Berdikari 2020 vision is gaining incremental momentum, in which there is renewed emphasis on praying and planning. This will pave the way towards a greater realization of the PMSM being self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. There has been significant progress made in raising the awareness and desire for such an advancement to be more self-sufficient. There is a gaining acceptance that the majority of the PMSM 70 strong paid/ employed staff will have to consider a bi-vocational paradigm, which is a more realistic model of ministry contextually. There are also deliberate strategies to open the way for a greater involvement by the laity in the life of the PMSM. TRAC continues to be committed to helping the PMSM advance spiritually, economically and educationally.
The 10 key pillars / goals in the PMSM Wawasan Berdikari 2020 are:
1. Church planting/ multiplication: villages in both Perak and Pahang have been identified.
2. Discipleship training for pastors, church leaders and members are being carried out in the 6 districts.
3. Financial sufficiency: tithing and pledging have been carried out in all 6 districts, with a distinct improvement such as RM 6000 annually were further collected for 2010 and 2011.
4. Education Fund: already set up.
5. Prayer and Fasting: every 1st of the month in all 6 Districts.
6. Consistent celebration of the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
7. To uphold the Biblical Role, Identity and Image of the pastor, including being bi-vocational.
8. Setting up Co-operatives in villages.
9. Land ownership.
10. Community development.
The PMSM collectively fast and pray on the 1st of every month for WB 2020, even when it is during their Annual Conference Session.
Colin Nicholas, Coordinator of the Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), poignantly highlighted the fundamental plight of the Orang Asli community in West Malaysia. He recently delivered the speech of acceptance when the COAC was named the organisation of the year in Malaysia by the United Nations (October 2011). He had boldly pointed out that the award is a premature honour as the OA ‘problem’ still persists. He pointed out that 20 percent of the nation’s hard core poor came from the Orang Asli (OA), even though the OA only made up 0.7 percent of Malaysia’s population. He stressed that their poverty and their marginalisation are in fact symptoms of a more fundamental and bigger root cause. He then explained, “This is the political and operational denial of the right of the Orang Asli, to a level and nature of development of their own choosing, on their own terms, and on their own land....Surveys, questionnaires, statistical analyses and departmental reports are not sufficient to give you a true picture of the Orang Asli reality. We need to listen to the Orang Asli. We need to engage with them as equals....The resolution of the Orang Asli problem lies in it not being considered as an issue of welfare or development. But of justice”.
As an AC we need to seek justice for the OA community, but also remember to treat and engage with them as equals, including when we visit them in their villages. May I also take this opportunity to remindall our TRAC churches to liaise with the PMSM HQin Kampar whenever you plan to visit their villages and partner them in development projects. This will prevent internal organisational misunderstanding, enhance accountability and ensure that we do not contravene the spirit of BERDIKARI in the PMSM where such partnership work is concerned.
TRAC is glad and privileged to play a facilitating role in the recent General Conference Indigenous/ Bumiputra Work Consultation held in Sibu on the 15-16 August. This is held for the purpose of updating shared information, mutual support, integration of common areas of work and ministry, and to pray for this important mission work. We are emphasizing the need to strengthen our bumiputra brethren / Orang Asli and indigenous communities in both E and W Malaysia. The 2000 census indicates that the Malaysian Church is made up of more than 70 percent of Christians from E Malaysia. Integration Work Committees are being set up for the Iban, Sabah outreach and Sengoi work respectively so that our ACs will be coordinated and synergistic in our mission partnership to these groups in the areas of witness, equipping and social transformation ministries.
One of the significant ways to strengthen the indigenous Bumiputra Church is to work with para-church ministries such Pristine World in identifying and financing translation projects of books and teaching materials that will strengthen the majority segment of the Malaysian Church. Hence TRAC has financed the publication into BM (as textbooks and workbooks for children) - The Gospel Story vols 1 & 2 published by Pristine World. This amounted to about RM 64,000. The recent second translation project also with Pristine World is The Story of Early Christianity (by Ms Goh Kim Guat) which will cost RM 28,000. Let each of our 39 churches send in their contributions as we commit ourselves to this worthy Kingdom building task. This has become a TRAC mission priority.
A BM Work Forum seminar on Islamisation focusing on the impact of Bumiputra communities in Sabah and Sarawak will be organised by the SCAC in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on the 23-25 Feb 2012. TRAC and other ACs are invited to each send 15 representatives.
The Board of Missions has been doing a good job in revitalising our Missions thrust led by Col (rtd) Leong Pook Seong. He reports that more churches are now involved in the migrant outreach ministry. The total number of non-English speaking services is: 6 in BM, 10 in Chinese, 3 in Nepali, 1 in Tamil, 4 in Myanmarese, and 1 in Cambodian.
Our TRAC churches continue to give support to the mission work of the 4 selected countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam. Our on-going policy is to strengthen our partner churches in these countries to the end that they can be self-sufficient and reproduce new churches.
A small team will be visiting the United Church of Bangladesh (UCB) in the early part of 2012 as we review how we can best partner them in the work of the Gospel in that poor and needy nation. At the 3rd Asian Methodist Conference on 25-28 June 2011, Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to speak to Bishop Niboron Das of the Bangladesh Methodist Church regarding Bishop Benjamin Biswas and the UCB joining them formally. He was receptive; Bishop Biswas was also responsive to the proposal of pursuing a “merger”. We pray for a successful outcome to the merger discussion scheduled to be held in Dhaka in December 2011.
About 10 of our churches are participating in mission partnership with Lower Myanmar Methodist Church and in the Eastern Shan state. The partnership with Operation Mobilisation in Nepal is anchored by KL Wesley (since 2003) with annual mission trips to Kathmandu and Laban organized. This also links up to the local Nepali ministry in this church. The re-connection to Vietnam has been preliminarily done by Penang Wesley. It is also likely that we can use Rev Charles Tran’s (seconded to us for migrant ministry in Malaysia by the UMC, USA) connection there for future mission ministry.
There were 64 participants and facilitators from 15 churches at the TRAC Mission Consultation 22-23 July 2011. It our hope that more will attend the next one on the 20-21 July 2012 which will also be held at Sungei Way Subang Methodist Church.
II. SOME OTHER CONCERNS IN OUR ANNUAL CONFERENCE
We thank the Lord for His gracious provision of 2 Marina View Villa apartment units, PD, through the generosity of a family who worship at Barker Road Methodist Church, Singapore. These 2 properties were given in June 2011.
The TRAC Disaster Relief Fund: an Operational Guideline (see Board of Missions report AC/08 Annexure A) has been adopted by the TRAC Executive Board. We have been witnessing the mounting number of natural disasters, more of which are happening in the Asian region. This will enable our AC to be systematic and timely in our response to such urgent and dire situations. We thank our churches for being caring, compassionate and generous in their participation for meeting such needs.
TRAC Organisational Leadership Training Module (OLM): this significant module is to provide basic understanding of our Methodist structure/polity, direction, unity, operational competency and generally to enhance our cohesion as an AC body. The 4 key areas in the syllabus are: #1 The Church – The Big Picture of the Body of Christ; #2 The Church – The Rhyme and Rhythm of the Heart in Spiritual Leadership; #3 The Church – The Nuts and Bolts of the Organisation Structure; #4 The Church – The Handles for Life-giving Meetings and Decision-making. The target groups include pastors, Lay Leaders, LCEC members, church ministry staff, Small Group leaders and Ministry Dept heads. The OLM was launched in January 2011 and so far the Northern and Eastern Districts have completed all 4 modules. Next year the OLM will be held in the Perak and the Southern Districts.
We are glad that the emphases on the youth and college ministries have begun to bear fruits by the grace of the Lord. This year Kampar Wesley has dedicated a Ministry Home on Easter for KTAR and UTAR students which they have purchased. We have seen our Jeremiah School program started 9 years ago producing Christian vocation workers as well as facilitators for our other youth events.
We continue to persevere with our young adults ministry as we plan for the 4th Young adults Convention (YAC) which will be held in Melaka on the 15-17 September 2012. This year, the YAC was ably organised by the young adult groups in Penang Wesley and Penang Trinity in Penang. There were 62 participants from 10 churches who found the community time together most enriching as they fellowshipped, received input and interacted on the theme of “I Quit! (my ordinary lifestyle)”. We must encourage more of our young adults to attend so to receive relevant input, mutual encouragement and strategic networking among themselves. The only District not represented was the Eastern District, and there was minimal representation from the Southern District.
We are glad to share that TRAC has developed and dedicated on 2 Oct 2010 the Parit Buntar Methodist Centre for training, retreats and reflection groups (see http://www.pb-mc.org). This is a smaller place that can accommodate up to 78 people. For more information and booking, do contact Mr Stephen Chew (012 5724559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). A brochure will be distributed later at this Conference.
TRAC had also organised the GC Aldersgate Public Lectures in conjunction with the Episcopal Office (17-18 May 2011) and TRAC Pastors’ Seminar (19-20 May 2011) held in KL Wesley. The speaker was Dr William Abraham, a Wesleyan scholar who is committed to missions. He spoke on Revival from the Wesleyan experience and perspective in the Public Lectures. He then gave significant input on the role and mission of the Church from the Scriptural and Wesleyan perspectives important to the pastoral role today in the TRAC Pastors’ Seminar.
Let us be prepared to be available to be nominated to serve in the various boards in our Annual Conference as we prepare for the coming new quadrennium. Elections for the next quadrennium will take place in the 37th TRAC Session next year. Above all, let us keep this matter in prayer.
II. News from the Wider Connection
The PD Methodist Centre Building Project is proceeding well; the Lord willing it should be opened for use in January 2013. It will be our aim as a total Methodist Family in W Malaysia to make this venue our regular “Home of the Annual Conferences”. This will ensure it has adequate financial support whilst we too get to cut down costs for our AC Sessions.
The GC bi-lingual (English & Chinese) publication – The Holy Spirit and Revival is now available at RM 3 per booklet.
GC Special Session, 12-15 October 2011, Selesa Beach Resort, 5th Mile Jln Pantai, PD. Except for the few Constitutional amendments of the MSF and MW regarding time of AGM, election and voting taking effect from 1 Jan 2012, all other changes to the Discipline will only be effective on1 Jan 2013, after the 17-22 Sept 2012 General Conference Session. The section on MINISTRY was discussed, but not tabled for adoption; a copy based on the Special GC Session discussion will be sent to all AC BOM for ministers/ pastors for further feedback as necessary. Thereafter the 2012 GC Session will make a final decision.
Let us continue to pray for the Methodist Church in Malaysia as we take the road of reformation for our church structure and administration. It is our aim that this will lead to deepened spiritual life and multiplication of effective ministries through the sovereign work of God in all our Methodist churches.
We are most appreciative to the Discipline Review Council led by Mr Gopala Sundaram (TAC) for their tireless, extensive and able work in preparing the groundwork for this process to take place.
The 3rd Asian Methodist Conference on 25-28 June 2011, Hong Kong: Malaysia had a delegation of 38. Altogether there were about 150 representatives from 10 nations.
Among the key issues discussed was how collaboration in the migrant workers ministry and outreach to the youths can be enhanced among the member countries of AMC.
Bishop T S Sagar (of the Methodist Church in India) was elected the new AMC Chair. Mr John Ling from the SCAC was elected the Lay Vice-Chair.
The GC Youth Council will be formally set up to form a stronger network for youth work among the ACs. The Council will do research, plan, strategise and be a voice for the youth to the GC, ACs, and local churches. GC Youth website: this project that was sponsored by a TRAC couple was officially launched at the GCEC in Sibu (18-19 Feb 2011). The address is email@example.com, our TRAC Youth Director is in charge of TRAC information, postings etc.
A GC MYF Conference is planned for 2013, targeting 50 youths from each AC. There will be Bible Expositions, talks on Wesleyan spirituality and caring structures, tracking contemporary youth issues, opportunity to forge a greater sense of being one in the Methodist family etc. Mr Michael William, GC Executive Youth Director, is in charge.
The Council of Churches Malaysia continues to look forward to the completion of their Building Project which has been rescheduled to mid-May 2012. The CCM is grateful that the Selangor government gave a grant of RM 50,000 for this project (in October 2011). However, CCM still needs our collective support as the project cost has risen to RM 12 million, with RM 6,005,000 raised so far.
Many of us have been touched by the life, ministry and writings of the late John R W Stott. Theologian David Wells summed up this man’s life aptly. He was converted at a 1959 John Stott mission in South Africa, later in the 1960’s shared a household with Stott for 5 years. Wells goes on to say, “His leadership was effective because of his personal integrity and his Christian life. People who knew him always came back to these points. He was known all over the world, but when you met him he was a most devout, humble Christian man. His private life was no different from his public life. It was the same person. That’s another way of saying that he had integrity. There was no posing.” John Stott is a reminder to all pastors and believers to pursue living a life that is above reproach – to God’s glory; a life in which there is no gap between their “being” and their “doing”.
This great man of faith who had finished the race faithfully and magnificently, speaks about “Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World: How we can be salt and light” in a sermon on discipleship. He outlined 4 ways in which Christians have power to influence the world.
Firstly, there is power in prayer. Stott reminds the Church that our “first duty toward society and its leaders is to pray for them” (1 Tim 2:1-2). He goes on to call the Church to take with “increasing seriousness the 5 or 10 minutes of intercession in which, as a congregation, we bow down before God and bring to Him the world and its leaders, and cry to Him to intervene.” The Church is not to be parochial, but global – sharing in the “global concerns of our global God.”
Secondly, there is the power of truth especially the truth of the Gospel that “brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). When John (1:5) says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” – it is because that light is the truth of God. Stott states thus, “All God’s truth is powerful. God’s truth of whatever kind is much more powerful than the Devil’s lies... Truth is much more powerful than bombs and tanks and weapons.”
Thirdly, the Church has the power of example. Stott goes on to say, “Truth is powerful when it’s argued. It’s more powerful when exhibited. People need not only to understand the argument. They need to see the benefits of the argument with their own eyes.” The world is watching Christians as the agent of transformation and hope. May they see in us the difference in values, standards, joys, goals that bring hope, to the end that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).
Fourthly, the Church has the power of group solidarity. Stott quotes American sociologist Robert Belair (of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University) who said, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when 2 percent of its people have a new vision.” The power of a dedicated minority is enormous! Stott strikes a common but powerful chord with those of us who believe in the power of “dedicated godly networks” – especially for Malaysia. He says, “There is a great need for dedicated Christian groups committed to one another, committed to a vision of justice, committed to Christ; groups that will pray together, think together, formulate policies together, and get to work together in the community…Do you want to see your national life made more pleasing to God? Do you have a vision of a new godliness, a new justice, a new freedom, a new righteousness, a new compassion? Do you wish to repent of sub-Christian pessimism?”
May we as an AC be seen to be a community of faithful disciples of Christ affirming the power of prayer, truth, example and group solidarity. We are a people called by our God, who knows the goodness of God’s creation, the arrival of the Kingdom of God in Christ, and the present transforming work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. May the Spirit empowered promise and ideal of love for God and for humankind be a demonstrated power applied to all aspects of our life – including our being responsible and proactive citizens in this land.
We may be living in an “earth shaking” season both locally and globally, but let us also never forget that our God is the one who can so command that “the sun stood still, and the moon stopped”. May we always live to His glory and for His purpose.
Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia