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  TRAC President's Address (37th Session 2012)

ESV Matthew 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

 

            Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
President, Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia
 
 
  
As welook at and live in a much troubled world, I have been reminded of not forgetting the “final anchor of all reality” truth – that one day our beloved Lord Jesus Christ will return to bring about the new heavens and the new earth. Even as modern technology enables us to access information on a global scope simultaneously and speedily – we have as never before felt and understood what Paul wrote around the mid 1st century AD. He had said in Romans 8:18-23 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”.

For us as citizens of the Kingdom of God, it is indeed troubling to feel more than ever our “minority status” so that we become the punching bag issue for some politicians hoping to gain political mileage. R Nadeswaran, in his Citizen Nades column in The Sun (“Is winning at all costs worth it?”, 15 October 2012) wrote the following observation, “Two years ago, I listened in awe as the prime minister delivered his keynote address in Cambridge, quoting the Bible, the Quran and the Torah extensively. The theme of his speech was religious acceptance, not mere tolerance. He has always advocated the right and acceptable stand, but yet, among the ranks of his own party, there are those who choose to defy him and do the opposite for their own selfish gains. Christians and Christianity are the flavor of the week and when that ends, the next could be Jews or juice, whichever the blinkered minds of this minority choose to pick. Let’s accept these three key points – the official religion of the country is Islam and is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. No one can and will attempt to change it. Hudud law cannot be implemented unless the Constitution is changed….Christians form just 8% of the population and any talk about making it the official religion must be taken with a kilo of salt.”

Elsewhere the number of troubling issues is voluminous: the environmental issue of shortage of water and the changing weather that is affecting food production in North America, that the havoc of super storm Sandy a month ago that hit 15 states in the United States is estimated to cost US$50 billion in damage, the rising number of war casualties in the Middle East, the problem of international flesh trade in which young girls are forcibly sold into prostitution, the number of street people rising even in Malaysia, the alarming threat of crime that now sees literal daylight robberies in restaurants in our own cities … the list goes on.

Without advocating any sense of escapism but rather to engage the reality of a fallen world with a right perspective, Joseph Bayly (Psalms of My Life), penned this simple but powerful prayer, “ Lord Christ, your servant Martin Luther said he only had two days on his calendar: today and ‘that day’. And that’s what I want too. And I want to live today for that day.” We must live in this Biblical reality of not only gritting our teeth in going through “today”, but to being watchful concerning “that day”, looking forward to, living and longing for it. “That day” must continue to be the ground of the mission of the Church: our mission and task is earthed to the promise of the Lord’s return and His subsequent renewal of the whole creation. On “that day”, the new creation already started when Christ was resurrected will be consummated or completed. God will fill all creation with His glory and righteousness on “that day” – death and decay, sickness and hunger, slavery and injustice – will be things of the past. But for now, for “today”, we as God’s disciples and body, can and should engage in mission and task that are in line with new creation as we move to the climax of “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Nicholas T Wright (Surprised by Hope) most eloquently assures us that our work, our ministry and our efforts in that direction will not be in vain. He said, “Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of His creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creations; and of course, every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honoured in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrection power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. God’s recreation of His wonderful world…means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there.”

So let us resolutely continue to make a difference “today”, no matter how big or small, that will be enhanced on “that day” of the Lord’s return.

The outline of the rest of this address is as follows:

  1. Some Observations on our TRAC Vision Pursuit

  2. Some Important Issues from the 10th General Conference Session 2012

  3. Some News from the wider community

  4. Conclusion: A Multitude of Gratitude

 

  1. Some Observations on our TRAC Vision Pursuit

Our Annual Conference continues to pursue the 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. These are consonant with the General Conference Road Map published on 2010 for the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

 

From our statistics, up to June 2012, TRAC has an average church attendance of 11955 (compared to 11982 at the end of 2011) from 39 local churches; a church membership of 15717 (compared to 15642 in 2011); 83 church services (compared to 85 in 2011); no. in Care Groups (excluding church Bible Study Groups) is 605 (compared to 588 in 2011); with 825 attending 121 intercessory/ Prayer Groups (compared to 946 attending 127 Groups in 2011); the average Church School attendance is 2147 (2282 in 2011), no. in MYF/ MIF is 1047 (1063 in 2011), no. in Boy’s Brigade is 1218 (950 in 2011), no. in Girl’s Brigade is 1245 (1114 in 2011). Overall, there is much more work to be done especially in seeking to attain net increase in terms of active disciples and worshippers in our worship services. We are heartened to note the growing work by the BB and GB of 27% and 12 % respectively. The average attendance in Church School has dropped from 2282 (end of 2011) to 2147 (June 2012); the children’s ministry (and young people ministry) must not be neglected so as to be relegated to the periphery. The statistics indicate that we need to intentionally give attention and invest our resources and efforts as we begin discipleship at this tender but most crucial age group.The non-English weekly services remain the same as in 2011: 11 in Chinese, 6 in BM, 4 in Myanmarese, 3 in Nepali, 1 each in Cambodian and Vietnamese. Currently there are 3 Preaching Points.

 

There’s an old saying that says we should “pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you”  attributed to St. Ignatius ie turning it all over to God in prayer and then working tirelessly and urgently to do God’s work. And as we do this, we need God’s grace to “know what Israel ought to do” as we face a post-modern world. We need to employ the right and fresh “wineskins” as we seek the “new wine of the Spirit” (Matt 9:17) in our age and time. I was reminded of this in the article by Seah Chiang Nee (The Star, 3 November 2012) titled – “PM living in a very different era” with the subtitle – “Lee Hsien Loong may have been groomed by his father Lee Kuan Yew to be the prime minister but nothing could have prepared him for the Singapore of today”. We must be open to helpful and even radical changes in the way we do ministry, but without compromising the fundamentals of Scriptural faith and holiness. In the field of politics alone, Tricia Yeoh (The Sun, “The Internet and politics”, 2 Nov 2012) shared her thoughts and research saying, “The internet has transformed the way politics is managed, but there are opposing views as to whether this increased exposure or tools such as social media, have genuinely increased the political education of Malaysians. Malaysia has 17.5 million internet users, roughly reaching 60% of the population. It has the second highest social network penetration in Southeast Asia, at an estimated 91%.” We must ask God for wisdom and guidance as we review and analyse how we in our “connexialism” as the Methodist Church in Malaysia, can relevantly minister to a very “connected” Malaysia.

 

Our Conference Statistician’s report contains analysis and detail information including comparative figures and data for 2011 and 2012, which we can study individually. The report makes the significant confirmatory comment relevant to TRAC’s Church Planting emphasis in the new quadrennium ie that the majority of the growth was centred in key urban areas.

 

  1. LIFELONG DISCIPLESHIP – Following Christ, Becoming Like Christ

Goal: To have every disciple continue to grow holistically through mentoring and spiritual formation at all levels towards Christlikeness.

 

Authentic and lifelong discipleship has always been an essential DNA for us in the Wesleyan tradition. Simply put, John Wesley’s teaching which is of paramount importance is that “The Church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” He then was led by God to use the Small Group structure of ministry to preserve the fruit of revival brought by the work of the Holy Spirit, and to transform society. He knew the importance of giving weight to bringing converts to maturity as living, authentic disciples whose transformed lives will result in the renewal of the life and ministry of the Church. That will at the same time preserve and sustain the fruit of revival and spiritual awakening. An essential and basic book that will help us understand our Methodist roots clearly is “A Model for Making DISCIPLES – John Wesley’s Class Meetings” by D Michael Henderson. This well-researched, readable and relevant book has only 4 chapters: The Wesleyan Revolution, The Formation of Wesley’s Method, Wesley’s System of Interlocking Groups, and Why was Wesley’s System so Effective.

 

TRAC must re-emphasise making disciples even from the very onset, even in our children’s ministry - as against making mere converts. I have been challenged by the Lord for some time now as to the summary definition of a disciple from the perspective of NRS Revelation 12:11 - “But they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. 

 

The German martyr of World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship) puts it powerfully and to the point that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We must heed his warning in our own age and time about “cheap grace”. “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate...Luther had said that grace alone can save; his followers took up his doctrine and repeated it word for word. But they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation of discipleship. There was no need for Luther always to mention that corollary explicitly, for he always spoke as one who had been led by grace to the strictest following of Christ....The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship. Many have convinced themselves that because Jesus’ death on the cross has won for them a berth in heaven, there is no need for a life of discipleship”, said Gerald R McDermott (Seeing God) most penetratingly.

It is encouraging that our TRAC churches are now more intentionally focusing on discipleship making through discipleship groups, increased use of relevant materials and resources, coverage on this subject from the pulpit and the practice of spiritual disciplines that can enhance “Christ being formed in you” (Gal 4:19). We need to emplace a pervasive basic Small Group structure and vehicle for discipling our members in all our TRAC churches. The Rev Dr Andrew Tan will be presenting a paper on behalf of the SG Task Force at this 37th TRAC Session which had already undergone a prior process of presentation to the TRAC Joint Board of 2011 and 2012.

 

  1. WHOLESOME FAMILIES – Growing Strong Families in Christ

Goals:
  • To build strong marriages with mutual submission and clarity of roles

  • To strengthen parenting relationships of parents and children

  • To cultivate godly values and biblical standards for families

This has been a challenging area in terms of our Annual Conference providing greater resourcing for its development. Our TRAC ICM Board has proactively recognised this area of need and has set Family Life as a new focus for 2013. The ICM will be spearheading the development of 4 modules that targets integrating spiritual formation into family life, with the possibility of organising the 1st module/ seminar in the 2nd half of next year.

Meanwhile, quite a number of our churches have organised at the local level seminars on “Wholesome Families”, “Parenting Teenagers”, using the Alpha Marriage and Parenting courses, connecting with Focus on the Family for resources, setting up “Fathers’ Club”, making available weekly family devotional material in the Bulletin, Family Altar emphasis from the pulpit, and implementing worship Services in which the whole family worships together.

 

James Dobson, renown Christian spokesman on family and founder of Focus on the Family, suggested the following areas as “Family Bases to Cover” (Leadership, Winter 1986,Vol VII, No.1) which is still relevant to us today, even though more contemporary issues could be added. He said that churches can help young families by teaching on the following “strategic topics”.

 

In the area of Christian parenthood:

1. Biblical principles of disciplining children

2. Self-responsibility for children

3. Parenting the adolescent

4. Controlling television (and modern media/ IT devices) in the home

5. Building self-esteem in children

6. Sex education

 

In the area of preserving marriage:

  1. Husband and wife roles, as prescribed by the Bible

  2. Help for the home maker

  3. Christian attitude toward marital sex

  4. Establishing meaningful family devotions

  5. The biblical concept of romantic love

  6. Christian attitude toward in-laws and relatives

 

Emotions in the Christian Life:

  1. Interpreting guilt

  2. The role of impressions in interpreting the will of God

  3. Learning to depend on God in time of stress

  4. Anger: right and wrong ways of ventilating

  5. Christian perspectives on trouble (Why do Christians suffer? Does God always answer prayer for healing? Etc)

  6. The difference between pride (which God despises) and self-esteem (which He endorses)

  7. Dealing with low self-esteem as an adult

 

Financial pressures:

  1. Biblical principles for family financial management

  2. Tithing and stewardship within the family

  3. The dangers of materialism

 

Other family topics:

  1. Serving Christ in an un-Christian business or profession

  2. Identifying spiritual gifts

  3. Winning neighbours to Christ

  4. Attitudes toward aging and the elderly

 

 

  1. A VOICE TO OUR NATION – Seeking Our Nation’s welfare in Christ

Goals:
  • To be a voice that speaks up for social concerns, social justice and social action

  • To be a voice that pricks the conscience of the nation

 

Harvard and Cambridge educated scientist and author, Jared Diamond in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed- lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:

  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction

  2. Soil problems (erosionsalinization, and soil fertility losses)

  3. Water management problem

  4. Effects of introduced species on native species

  5. Increased per-capita impact of people as the world’s population is growing, so that the per-capita impact ie the resources consumed (more people means more food, space, water, energy, other resources are needed) and the wastes produced by each person may vary but nonetheless will increase ; one source puts the average inhabitant in the US, western Europe, and Japan consuming 32 times more resources such as fossil fuels, and also produces 32 times more wastes, than an average Third World citizen.

In addition, he advanced four new factors that may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies.

  1. Anthropogenic climate change especially global warming.

  2. Build up of toxins in the environment

  3. Energy shortages (fossil fuels of oil, natural gas and coal)

  4. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity (this is the idea that most energy fixed from sunlight will be used for human purposes, with little left for supporting the growth of natural communities, such as natural forests).

His book provides food for thought for us as Christians in terms of caring for one’s“ fellow nonhuman creations”; . Environmental issues are now at our door step such as the shortage of water, the worsening haze occurrences, deforestation, hill slopes disasters, air and water pollution, industrial waste, weather change etc.

As we wait for the ever nearing 13th General Election, I have found the article by Thomas Fann – 10 Qualities of a Great Nation (Malaysian Insider, 27 Oct 2012) most helpful. The following are the 10 qualities he listed that “would make Malaysia a great nation – a place we would be proud to call home. 1. FREEDOM – to choose and to be what you want to be…. 2. JUSTICE – The strong desire to ensure fairness and equality in our society, making sure that the rights of everyone are protected regardless. New laws enacted and old laws amended or repealed must show a commitment to justice and meritocracy …. 3. GRACIOUSNESS – a society whose people consider the interest of and give way to others even though they don’t have to. The opposite of this is selfishness…. 4. MORALITY – a clear sense of morality that resides in the hearts of people, guiding them like an inner compass as to what is right and wrong even when no one can see or know…. 5. MERCY – a society who looks after the poor and needy without judging their status or why they are in that situation…. 6.TRUTHFULNESS – where truth is sought after in all areas, manifesting itself in transparency, integrity and honesty in all government and private dealings…. 7. VALUE OF LIFE – a high value is placed on all life and no effort is spared to ensure that lives are preserved and extended. Regardless of one’s ethnicity, religion, social status and physiological condition, all lives would be valuable and not measured with money…. 8. CREATIVITY – where creativity flourishes as people seek better ways to express and to serve each other…. 9. EXCELLENCE – people work with all their heart and take pride in what they do …. 10. STEWARDSHIP – a nation where properties, resources and the environment would be looked after for the enjoyment of future generations. It would be a nation where conservation of our natural resources is not just a public relations exercise but birthed out of deep conviction that saving the planet is saving our children’s lives…………These 10 qualities of a great nation are by no means exhaustive nor are they quantifiable. But they are, I believe, the common yearnings of all human beings. If the people of a nation are united in the pursuit of these qualities, then they are surely attainable.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” As Christians who are looking forward to “that day” – we will passionately lend our voice and give our energy to the quest of attaining these qualities for our nation.

 

Peter Rowan’s recently published book Proclaiming the Peacemaker – The Malaysian Church as an Agent of Reconciliation in a Multicultural Society (it combines theological, historical and sociological perspectives pertaining to the role of the Church as a reconciling agent) - will be of interest to us as Malaysian Christians. This is especially so following the visit of Dr Michael Cassidy in sharing on the theme of “The Christian and Nation Building” during the GC Laity Conference (20-21 July 2012, KL) emphasising the ministry of reconciliation of the Church in this land.

  1. A VISION FOR THE WORLD – Embracing Local and Global Missions for Christ

Goals
  • Witnessing to the nations far and near, reducing the Unreached People Groups both global and local

  • Sending missionaries

  • Reaching out to migrant workers

  • Planting congregations/ churches

Arising from the 36th TRAC Session of last year, we are having a Congregation/ Church Planting workshop led by the Board of Evangelism in this Annual Conference Session. We shall discuss lessons learnt from our past experiences, and under the guidance of the Lord of the harvest, see how we can strategise and labour towards planting congregations and churches in our major cities and conducive localities, including migrant communities.

We have as an Annual Conference, followed the 2012 GC Road Map for the Methodist Church in Malaysia in strengthening the Bumiputra church especially in East Malaysia. I want to thank our churches and members for the willing and generous support given to the 2 “translation of materials into BM” projects, the support of 2 SIB seminaries (one each in Sarawak and Sabah), and the SIAC church building projects. In addition, the Board of Missions in collaboration with SS Methodist Church and other TRAC churches, has embarked on a series of training programs to equip the pastors, lay leaders and workers of the SIAC. The 10th GC of this year has mandated the GCEC to look into the formation at the appropriate time of a Council on Indigenous Ministry with the primary help of the Council of Missions.

One of the highlights for me this year has been to attend the World Prayer Assembly in Bogor, Jakarta on 14-18 May with 3 other TRAC pastors, 2 PMSM pastors and about 10 other TRAC members. This is only the second such assembly attended by about 9000 from all over the world, the last one was held in Seoul in 1984. It was a particular joy for me to personally witness the presence of delegates from Vietnam and China. At the WPA, the assembly sensed that the Lord’s leading at this time in history is for His Church to reach out to the Middle East, spearheaded by churches from Asia. Let us, as part of the Malaysian Church, prayerfully consider how we can also be a partnering party in this end time initiative.

TRAC continues to work with the General Board of Global Missions (United Methodist Church, USA) to reach the Vietnamese community. We continue to monitor, continue and advance mission work by the Lord’s enabling and connecting in our “adopted countries” of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam. Our Board of Missions is working closely with the Council of Missions to coordinate and synergise our efforts in the mission fields with our sister Annual Conferences.

As we committedly pledge ourselves to missions, let us also be mindful of the “updating analysis” of mission theologians. Michael Pocock, Gailyn Van Rheenen and Douglas McConnell, in their book The Changing World of World Missions, speaks about the changing Global Context of globalisation, changing demographics (migration etc), from world religions to multiple spiritualities, and the changing basis of knowledge from modernity (the science centered worldview since the 17th century Enlightenment) to post-modernity (in the beginning of the 1980’s that treats most truth claims as subjective, personal or cultural, being suspicious about institutions and systems). They speak of the changing Missional Context of the disappearing centre of “Christendom” (once a reference to traditional Christian nations) to “Global Christianity”, the changing motivation from ‘Fear of hell” to “the Glory of God”, the increasing awareness of spiritual warfare in missions, and innovation in Mission operations. The Strategic Context segmentcoversworking together beyond individual efforts to networks of collaboration, from self-support to international partnership in terms of the changing uses of money, and life in the virtual world and beyond in terms of the impact of new technologies.

It is my personal view that it would be good for us to continue with our current Theme and 4 essentials into the 2013-2016 quadrennium as we have only begun effecting plans and actions for them. In the 2nd Essential, we are only beginning to emplace practical plans for Growing Strong Families for Christ. The congregation / church planting workshop findings and strategies can be added into the 4th Essential. It is TRAC’s custom that the working quadrennium is 2014-2017 – the one year buffer enables us to have transition time vis-à-vis planning after the election of Conference Officers and Boards are over at the end of 2013. However, I shall leave this matter to the next TRAC Executive board and to our Annual Conference delegates.

 

  1. Some Important Issues/ Changes/ Information From the 10th GC 2012

I have listed below some of the key decisions made at the 10th GC held on 17-22 September and 22-24 October 2012 in KL for our information. The proposed amendments under the Constitution section (which requires 2/3 majority aggregate votes of all the Annual Conferences in order to be adopted) will be voted on later in this 37th TRAC Session. The implementation date for practically all the decisions made then is 1 January 2013. This is but a brief description of most of these changes that will affect the Local Church administration. The full details (which cannot be fully captured in this Address) are found in the forthcoming edition of the Methodist Book of Discipline which will be published as soon as is possible.

  1. TheMinistry: has undergone a fundamental change to become clearly and basically 2-track ie the Local Ministry and the Itinerant Ministry.

  1. Local Ministry: membership is for Lay Ministry Staff, Local Preachers (LPL holders) who may be appointed to a charge. If a Local Preacher in good standing completes 2 consecutive years in the pastoral ministry he/she is eligible to apply to be ordained a Local Deacon. [This replaces the Diaconal Ministry].

  2. Itinerant Ministry: those with Seminary degrees (B Th/ B D/ M Div/or equivalent degrees), LPL can apply to be a Probationary Member (no more “Minister-on-trial”), going on to be ordained as Deacon and then Elder – upon fulfilling the requirements.

 

  1. Duties of a Pastor: this has been revamped to cover the main areas of Worship, Word and Sacrament, Order, Evangelistic and Social Witness.

 

  1. Membershipin small group: “Small groups may be formed as regular groups of preferably not more than 12 or 14 persons. Members of the local church are to be members of small groups which are organized by the Local Church Executive Committee and the pastor-in-charge.”

 

  1. Baptised infants and children, regardless of age, can now receive the elements in the Holy Communion Service. The accompanying "requirement" is of course that these children will also need to be progressively and constantly taught (at home and in the church) the Christian faith, meaning and commitment that accompany this sacrament of grace so that they grow in their discipleship and relationship with our Lord.

 

  1. Termination of membership period is now 24 months for untraceable church members in spite of the necessary steps taken to locate them.

 

  1. A new provision: “No lay member or minister shall take the Methodist Church to the civil court. Membership of the lay member or minister in the Methodist Church shall be terminated immediately in the event the lay member or minister resorts to such action against the Methodist Church.”

 

  1. The LCEC Chair will now be elected at the 2nd Local Conference.

 

  1. The“Leave For Ministers” Schedule (Part I: Study Leave, Short Term Study Leave, and Sabbatical Leave; Part II: Sick Leave, and Prolonged Sick Leave; Part III: Maternity Leave, Compassionate Leave, and Annual Leave) has been re-presented and adopted so that there is greater clarity, consistency and guidance in this whole area.

 

  1. The Conferences: the new changes include -

a. (Conference agency): “where relevant and appropriate, the Board of Ministry may invite lay leaders of good standing to participate in the Board of Ministry proceedings.”

b. “There shall be at least one local conference conducted every conference year.”

 

  1. JudicialAdministration: this has undergone major changes to make clearer and more practical the process of Lodging and Receiving of complaints (against Officers of the church, clergy or lay members) and the subsequent processes of investigation, inquiry, trial and appeal – without compromising on fairness and justice. There is also a Schedule that spells out in Part I: Major Misconduct, and Part II: Investigation Procedures (chart form).

 

  1. The GC Disaster Relief policy which had been adopted by the GCEC on 4-5 Aug 2012 was also presented for information.

 

  1. The proposal to make the steps and processes of setting up of new Annual Conferences (this arose from our PMSM situation) more flexible but adhering to the fundamentals of our Methodist ecclesiastical principles was also formally adopted: “That in the matter of nascent [embryonic, budding, emerging] Annual Conferences and missionary groups where the full rigour of the Methodist Book of Discipline cannot be wholly applied for reasons of literacy levels, governance skills, appropriateness and suitability for the culture, circumstances and structures of such Conferences and missionary groups, the General Conference Executive Council is authorized to approve an abridged and simplified set of rules from time to time to be used instead, and in lieu, of the Methodist Book of Discipline, in such Annual Conferences and missionary groups.”

 

  1. The Methodist Prayer Convention 2014 is scheduled to be on the Merdeka weekend of 29 August - 1 Sept 2014 (Venues are most likely to be in the Sunway Pyramid, and Bukit Jalil Stadium for Sunday Prayer Rally) and will be hosted in Kuala Lumpur. This will be our 3rd total Methodist Church Intercession event for revival and open heaven over the Church and nation. Let us lock this date into our church and personal calendars and prepare to come together to petition heaven in unison as a Methodist family in this land when the time comes.

 

  1. Recommendation: It would be useful if these new legislations in their fuller contexts in the forthcoming Methodist Book of Discipline be highlighted, discussed and clarified in 2013. This can be done at different levels such as in the Local Conference, the District Conference, the Pastors’ School, TRAC Joint Board, and the ICM module on Organisational Leadership. The new TRAC Executive Board may want to look into this.

 

  1. Our Annual Conference must place on record our sincere thanks to the outgoing Discipline Review Council which was ably chaired by Mr Gopala Sundram, for their very hard work and commitment in spearheading the work of extensive reforms, rationalizing and “re-formatting” our church legislation so that the Methodist Book of Discipline can become a more relevant, effective and easier-to-use guide in the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

 

  1. Some News of the wider community

 

  1. We celebrate the Jubilee Year of Malaysia’s formation as a nation from 16 September 2012. There will be combined inter-denominational events in our own localities in which our TRAC churches and congregations are encouraged to join in as we collectively seek the welfare of our nation. We need the Lord to help us as a nation, to gain greater freedom and sense of responsibility - in every strata and sphere of life in this nation. The Jubilee reminds all God’s people that God’s salvation intervention includes restoration and release so that there will always be justice, equity, freedom and hope for each resident in this land.

 

  1. We join the wider body of Christ in Malaysia to pray more unitedly and synergistically by being part of the Prayer United movement. This movement brings together the active prayer networks in both East and west Malaysia for the purpose of interceding for the coming 13th General Election, and organizing inter-denominational prayer rallies for and during this Jubilee Year.

 

  1. The Council of Churches Malaysia new building will be officially dedicated in April 2013. We rejoice that the Church in Malaysia will yet have another “landmark” of Christian presence and more importantly expanded space for kingdom witness, mission and ministry. However, the CCM Building Fund still need our financial support as a sum of at least RM 2 mil is still needed.

 

  1. The Seminari Theoloji Malaysia also needs our prayer and support, especially in identifying and encouraging more to be sent for training and preparation for pastoral ministry. It had set up a Endowment Fund to help in the ministry of STM. Churches and individuals are welcome to contribute to this STM Endowment Fund.

 

  1. Conclusion: A Multitude of Gratitude

As I look back over the last 11 years of the honour bestowed on me by the Lord of the Church and his people to serve in the office of President of TRAC, I can only sum it up with the words “amazing grace”. I thank the Sovereign Lord for His divine appointment, unceasing empowerment, unquestionable faithfulness and great patience with me all this time. I have been blessed by many who are present here in this TRAC Session, who had “walked in the light” with me, especially in the difficult but grace infused days at the beginning of these 11 years. I want to thank those “who were there” - who stood together with me and our leadership, and the many who prayed steadfastly, as we struggled through an unprepared “dark time”. We had lost then our Annual Conference President and Secretary within a few days of each other in November 2001, and with the Annual Conference Session just days away. There was also then the added threat of legal action taken against some of us. Like Israel, we can say – in Psalm 77:11, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?.... 19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. 20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron”.

 

As Eddie Gibbs (The Way to Serve) puts it, “We are often left unaware of God’s providential actions, until after the event – sometimes long after. There are times in life when God’s footprints will be invisible; it will seem that we have reached a dead end.”

 

The Lord had led us through the quadrennial visions of “Vision Beyond 100 By 2000” [2001-2004], “Open Heavens, Global Missions”[2005-2008]and “Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”. The “Essentials” or key result areas we had embarked on by the Lord’s grace had been: Leadership Development, Building Community, Missions and Outreach, Discipleship and Spirituality, Lifelong Discipleship, Wholesome Families, A Voice to our Nation, and A Vision for the World. These areas do overlap although with each succeeding quadrennium – they gain fresh perspective and deeper application. In view of these pronounced emphases (which actually began earlier than 3 quadrenniums ago) – our Annual Conference has been shaped to be in line with the main calling and identity of the Church of Christ ie worship, evangelism, discipleship, mission and service to the world.

 

I would like to put on record the sincere thanks of our Annual Conference to those who had played pivotal and strategic roles on this journey – our Executive Boards, the Board Chairpersons and their teams, our pastors and local church leaders, and others who have given us their input and “behind the scene” efforts and contributions. In this regard, let me thank our retiring travelling elders - the Rev Lawrence Francis (began as a Minister-on-trial in 1976) and Rev Hwa Jen (began as a Minister-on-trial in 1985) for their many years of persevering pastoral ministry in our Annual Conference. They have run the “full race” of reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 at the end of this year. I am also grateful to Mrs Lily Ch’ng for serving as an effective and most encouraging Chair of the Board of Presidency for the last 2 quadrenniums. We also thank Dr Samuel Ong for serving the full-term of 6 years as a “hands on”, committed and “stimulating” Lay Leader of TRAC; Mr Kwong Choong Vai as a most able and conscientious Chair of the Board of Finance since the year 2000; and Mr Stephen Cheah as our diligent and competent Conference Statistician for 2 quadrenniums. It has also been my pleasure to have served with Ms Matilda Renganayagee (TRAC Office Administrator), Ms Chang Choy Quin (TRAC National Youth Director) and Ms Ng Wai Ling (TRAC ICM Director) in our national office. I must add my special thanks to my intercessors, and all those who have kept me in their prayers regularly, including the prayer teams in our churches.

 

May I also take this opportunity to seek your personal forgiveness where in my weakness, fleshliness and ignorance - I have hurt you. While I feel like David when he gratefully declared before the Lord in 2 Samuel 7:18 "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” - yet I shall need to request you to continue to remember me in your prayers. For who is equal to such a task as this – as the Episcopal chief-servant, unless he knows that it is an appointment by sovereign Divine pleasure, and with the steadfast prayer support of the people of the Lord of lords and King of kings.

 

In a brief acceptance speech upon my election as the new Episcopal head on the 23 October 2012, the Lord had impressed on my heart Josh 5: 13-15 : Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" 14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" 15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

 

Although the Episcopal Election was protracted, ending only at part II of the 10th GC, it was clear in my heart from the very beginning that there is only one side on which we all stand, regardless of the outcome. It is not a question of getting God to be on “our side”, but we are to make sure we are all on His side! I am reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln, one of the finest Presidents of the United States of America. He said, “It is the President’s job to make sure he is on the Lord’s side, ‘for the Lord was always on the side of the right’.” It is my same prayer that while we engage in electing a new TRAC President as well as other Annual Conference office bearers at this 37th TRAC Session, we shall remember we stand on “holy ground” being in the Lord’s presence – and whatever the election outcomes – we are all standing on the same side,the Lord’s side. It is my sincere prayer that whoever is the new TRAC President, our TRAC family will also give to him or her understanding, prayer, support and the necessary help – as you have given me these past 11 years.

 

The STAR newspaper (“Methodist Church’s new Bishop”,1 Nov 2012) through Mr Soo Ewe Jin (Deputy Executive Editor) had asked me to state in 2 or 3 sentences my own response to the question – “What are your feelings about being elected the new Bishop, and what are your hopes and aspirations for the Methodist flock in Malaysia?” The following is my reply:

"I feel both humbled and honoured to be entrusted with the responsibility of the Episcopal Office by God and His people in the Methodist Church in Malaysia. My prayer is that by God's sovereign grace and empowerment through the Holy Spirit, the Methodist community will sincerely seek to live as authentic disciples of Christ that love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbours as ourselves. May the Methodist flock connect effectively and relevantly with others in the Malaysian Church, and also with other genuine parties, in continuing to make a difference in our beloved nation and the world - especially at this time in history".

 

May we each have a deepening sense of destiny, responding humbly and obediently to our sovereign Triune God, living lives as committed disciples of Christ, uniting with God’s people in the Church of Malaysia and others of genuine goodwill and nobility of purpose, engaging in bringing the rule and presence of the Kingdom of God into this nation and the world - at this strategic time in this generation.

 

The seasoned and esteemed editor at large of the Leadership Journal, Gordon MacDonald, shares his profound thoughts on “What does a transformed person look like?” after decades of mulling on this question. He uses the imagery of the noticeable difference that the highest levels of military training accomplishes in transforming young people from recruits into Marines. He goes on to outline the noticeable difference that a disciple would be conspicuously identifiable in “12 outward signs of the inner reality” (in his article How to Spot a Transformed Christian, Christianity Today, 20 August 2012). This is a disciple in whose life the Lordship of Christ has made an “unavoidably visible” difference. He concludes that a transformed Christian or authentic disciple is one who...

 

#1. Has an undiluted devotion to Jesus - a calculated and deliberate relationship with Jesus.

 

#2. Pursues a biblically informed view of the world; knowing the Bible well- its content and imperatives.

 

#3. Is intentional and disciplined in seeking God’s direction in life; “responsive obedience” (E Peterson).

 

#4. Worships, and has a spirit of continuous repentance, and who refreshes his/her relationship with God.

 

#5. Builds healthy, reciprocal human relationships – faithful to friends, affectionate, attentive and servant-like to spouse, and patient and nurturing to his children.

 

#6. Knows how to engage the larger world, where faith is not necessarily understood.

 

#7. Senses/ is aware of personal “call” and unique competencies.

 

#8. Is merciful and generous to those who are weaker.

 

#9. Appreciates that suffering is part of faithfulness to Jesus.

 

#10. Is eager and ready to express the content of his faith in the serendipitous events and encounters of everyday life.

 

#11. Overflows with thankfulness and that implies prone toward cheerfulness.

 

#12. Has a passion for reconciliation, which might be the highest characteristic of maturing believers.

 

May we as God’s people, seek unceasingly to live as authentic, “noticeably transformed” disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ as we join in John Bayly’s prayer:

 

Lord Christ, your servant Martin Luther said he only had two days on his calendar: today and ‘that day’. And that’s what I want too. And I want to live today for that day.”

 

Then we shall have lived as David did: ESV Acts 13:36For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers…”

 

All glory and praise to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen.

 

Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik

President, Trinity Annual Conference

Bishop Elect, The Methodist Church in Malaysia

 



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