Chia Hui Jun is Editorial Executive at Methodist Message and worships at Foochow Methodist Church.
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup expounded on the importance of Christian unity in the diverse church landscape in Singapore, during ETHOS Institute™ for Public Christianity’s first Annual Lecture on 20 October. Walking in a manner worthy of our calling first requires us to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1), and to love one another (John 13:34-35), he said.
Bishop Dr Wee was delivering the lecture in his capacity as President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS). He shed light on what unity is – a position and a process. Oneness is already established in spiritual unity, in our position in Christ with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6), and our responsibility is to maintain this unity.
Unity is also a process where we grow in Christ, with each part in the Body of Christ working together with humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). Church unity must be grounded in truth, and speaking this truth in love to build one another up.
Also, walking in unity requires each part of the Body of Christ to follow its sense of what God is calling it to do. Unity does not necessarily mean homogeneity; rather, it recognises that we are uniquely different and God has called us to different purposes. In practical terms, smaller, independent churches should be given the space and support to help them flourish and fulfil what they discern as God’s calling.
“The broad spread of traditions in the membership of NCCS carry with them differences in theology, worship and ministry practices that may affect unity in ways that linguistic and ethnic culture differences do not,” said Bishop Dr Wee.
Despite this, he observes a “very positive” state of unity among churches, clearly evidenced by the recent Jubilee Day of Prayer where 51,000 Christians gathered at the National Stadium to pray for our nation.
“To me, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. It rallies the parts of the Body of Christ together, without which authenticity of our witness is impossible,” said Bishop Dr Wee.
NCCS counts among its members denominations and congregational groups such as Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Assemblies of God, Church of Singapore, Evangelical Free and Orthodox, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, St Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church, and individual Baptist and Brethren congregations.
“With a guestimate of 500 churches in Singapore, their contribution to the state of society is important. For this reason, there must be a greater cohesion of what the Church can do together in order to impact society.”
Bishop Dr Wee also fielded questions from the audience during the Q&A session, including his views on the threats to church unity in Singapore. He responded that some social issues may elicit a spectrum of views amongst churches, but such differences are not what causes disunity. Unity does not mean unanimity, and what matters is how we manage such differences when these issues surface.
Finally, for churches to walk together in unity, they must be led by church leaders who desire unity and endeavour to promote it. They must come together during good times to strengthen one another and speak to one another in love, so that “during difficult times, we are strengthened to face them”.
Photos courtesy of The Bible Society® of Singapore