ALDERSGATE CONVENTION TALKS IN ENGLISH AND MANDARIN
IN THREE talks over three evenings, British Methodist Church minister and Wesleyan authority David Chapman went to great lengths to answer the twin question “What is the Church and where can it be found?”
The range of answers given indicates a wide diversity of views among Christians about the nature and identity of the Church.
However, focusing his attention on the Wesleyan way of being Church – the theme for his talks at the 2009 Aldersgate Convention from May 18 to 23 – he said that the essential features of being the Church in the Wesleyan tradition can be summarised as:
Scriptural holiness as the Christian way of life; Personal discipleship; Disciplined fellowship or koinonia in the Holy Spirit; and the evangelical proclamation of the Gospel.
The Rev Dr Chapman was sharing his insights in his first talk during the week-long Convention at Barker Road Methodist Church, which culminated in the Aldersgate Service on May 23.
The Convention began with two evenings of talks in Mandarin on May 18 and 19 given by the Rev Dr Ting Gah Hing, who had served several important ministries in the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference before moving to Brisbane 10 years ago where he now resides. He spoke on the topic “The Way to Happiness: Wesley’s Theology of Worship”.
In his talk on the second evening, the Rev Dr Chapman said the Wesleyan way of being Church “emphasises the ministry of the people of God”. The call to personal discipleship means that followers of Jesus Christ have their individual parts to play in the ministry and mission of the Church.
He, however, pointed out that John Wesley consistently held a high view of the ordained ministry. Methodists follow Wesley in regarding as theologically significant the “setting apart” of nominated individuals for ministry through ordination by prayer and the imposition of hands.
Over time, there was a “liberation of the laity” to contribute their spiritual gifts to the Church’s mission.
He listed the following as the key features of the ministry of the people of God: A diversity and unity of gifts in the Holy Spirit; spiritual gifts are for the building up of the Church; dif-ferent forms of ministry are linked to one another – no ministry exists in isolation.
In his third talk, he said the Wesleyan way of being Church includes a highly developed sense of Christian community or fellowship (koinonia) in the Holy Spirit. Methodism, he said, began as a network of religious societies which fostered cohesive-ness and corporate identity among the Methodist people.
For Wesley, holy living requires a community of fellow believers. In his theology, the Church is essentially a “saved and saving community”.
The essentials of Christian community in Wesleyan per-spective are strong bonds of fellowship (koinonia), sharing of Christian experience, mutual support and encouragement in the faith, and community discipline, i.e., “watching over one another in love”.
IN HIS first Mandarin talk, the Rev Dr Ting said our un-derstanding of John Wesley’s theology of worship “is, in fact, allowing us the wondrous means in finding the way to happiness or the way to the Kingdom of God”.
Wesley’s sermon on “Divine Providence”, he said, provides a direct access in knowing and attaining this happiness and hope. In this sermon, Wesley acknowledges that there is a threefold circle of divine providence:
1. The outermost circle in which God’s governance, love and care is extended to the whole race of humankind and God’s creation. God is known to be the one for us all.
2. The second smaller circle in which God’s governance, love and care is extended to those that seemingly profess their belief in Christ Jesus. God is known to be the one with us all.
3. The third innermost circle is particularly extended to the real Christians. God is known to be the one in us all.
In his second talk, the Rev Dr Ting pointed out that it is God in Christ who continues His work of establishing the Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
“And more significantly, it is Christ’s mission to restore to the fallen humankind God’s image of righteousness, truth and holiness for all that believed in Him.”
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message. Daniel Lie is a member of Barker Road Methodist Church.
Story by Peter Teo • Picture by Daniel Lie