Gather around Jesus for holy conferencing: Bishop Dr Solomon
THE 9th Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore, which was held at Methodist Centre from Sept 8 to 13, has been adjourned to Dec 4 and 5, as originally scheduled.
Forty-two delegates, 14 from each of the three Annual Conferences – the Chinese Annual Conference, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference and Trinity Annual Conference – attended the Session, held once in four years.
Special guests from abroad were Bishop Roy Sano from The United Methodist Church, the United States; Bishop Dr Hwa Yung from The Methodist Church in Malaysia; Bishop Amat Tumino from Region II Gereja Methodist Indonesia (The Methodist Church in Indonesia); Bishop Solito Toquero from the Philippines United Methodist Church; and the Rev Jeremy Dare representing The Methodist Church, Great Britain, and his wife, Mrs Sheila Dare.
Two other special guests were the Rt Rev Tan Cheng Huat, Moderator of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore and Vice-President of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, and the Rev Dr John Barrett, Chairman of the World Methodist Council, who is Principal of ACS (International) here. All of them brought greetings.
The Session opened with an Opening Service and Holy Communion at Barker Road Methodist Church. Bishop Dr Robert Solomon gave the message entitled “Gathering Around Jesus”. Almost all the church business items have been cleared except for one or two and the election of a bishop for the next quadrennium. These items will be tabled at the December meeting.
Bishop Dr Solomon announced, at the end of his Episcopal Address, before the election of the bishop, that he had served eight years and wished to step down. Despite this, he received 26 votes – two short of the two-thirds majority of 28 votes needed to be elected.
According to The Book of Discipline of The Methodist Church in Singapore, a two-thirds majority is needed for a bishop to be elected. This means a candidate must receive 28 votes (out of 42) before he can be elected bishop. At the close of the half-day session on Sept 13, Bishop Dr Solomon received 27 votes on the 34th ballot of voting. He had also received 27 votes in three earlier ballots.
The 9th Session of the General Conference was also a time of worship and prayer as was reminded by the Bishop in his sermon at the Opening Service in which he told the delegates to “gather around Jesus”. Every day the Session was preceded by morning worship.
Basing his sermon on the text from Mk. 6:30-44, Bishop Dr Solomon said: “Conferencing is not just a social or political activity – of making resolutions, legislating, voting and electing. It is far more than this. It is gathering around Jesus. It is an act of worship, of prayer, adoration, listening to Jesus, discerning His will, and seeking to obey Him.
“To gather around Jesus means that He should be at the centre of our thoughts, discussions and decision-making. Just gathering around Him does not guarantee that we will get it. In fact our text suggests that there is often a problem with those who gather around Jesus.
“Some do so with intentions that are less than noble, like the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. Others may have good intentions, like the disciples, but still fail to get it because of dullness of spirit. Whether it is dullness of spirit or hardness of heart – the two problems highlighted in the text – it is amazing how Jesus is so patient with such blindness, dullness and hardness.
“We believe He is here. Let us gather around Him. And let us pray that God will bear with us. How does He bear with us? We may have clever brains, but we may be suffering from the dullness of spirit and the hardness of heart that fail to understand the things of God and discern His ways. We must pray that God will dispel these things from us and give us a spirit of spiritual discernment, and the humility of heart that thrives in the souls of those who are gathered around Jesus.”
The service ended with the Holy Communion administered by Bishop Dr Solomon, Bishop Dr Hwa Yung, Bishop Roy Sano, Bishop Amat Tumino, the Rev Jeremy Dare, and the three Annual Conference Presidents, the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot (CAC), the Rev James Nagulan (ETAC) and the Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup (TRAC).
On the second day of the Session, Bishop Dr Hwa Yung brought the message entitled “Love One Another” in which he encouraged God’s people to focus more on the “being” rather than the “doing”. “Most of our churches are doing and not in the being,” he said, and asked how seriously we take our love commandment.
“The world is always watching us. Do they see us as a loving church or as a political party jockeying for positions?” When Jesus talks about love, he said, He is talking about love within the Church so that people outside the Church will see the love of God and the love for one another. “It will be a demonstration of the truth of God and our rootedness in Christ and the unity within the Church.”
On Day 3, Bishop Toquero preached about being connected to Christ and to one another.
“We are connected to Christ personally and corporately by faith,” he said. “We are strengthened in this connection through personal and corporate prayer, worship and reflection on God’s Word. We are rooted and grounded in the love of God and
of neighbour that we may fulfil the Great Commission and obey the great commandments.
“Let us be faithful in our connection with him in faith, in love, in hope, and in our mission to the world so that God’s rule and reign be realised on earth, that the kingdoms of this world shall finally be the Kingdom of God and of His Christ.”
In his message on Day 4, the Rev Dare dwelt on the reflection that Nicodemus poses an immense challenge and the need to be more open to God’s direction.
He described wind representing the Spirit as an important aspect of the Christian life – the characteristic of “uncertainty” about the source or the purpose of a particular work of grace in the human heart. But wind also offers valuable suggestions, such as:
Creating – the spirit hovering over the world and bringing it to life; Guiding and repenting – restoring, cool breeze bringing calm: God has a way of guiding us; Empowering – always face the wind for maximum benefit, and where we are without God’s presence, we need to hear Jesus; Frightening – we can be altered by the breath of God, we can be led to be different, to be better.
On Day 5, Bishop Amat Tumino, preaching in Mandarin, urged the delegates to “rise and build a better church and a stronger Christian community to serve God”. His message was interpreted by Dr Stanley Ling, a conference delegate from the CAC.
“We ought to learn from Nehemiah and leave the comfort of our home to serve God. With faith, we will be able to overcome obstacles and diffi culties. Most important of all, we must be united to do what we have to do,” said the Indonesian
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
STORY BY PETER TEO; PHOTOS BY DANIEL LIE