THE GENERAL CONFERENCE (GC) has decided unanimously to confer the title of Bishop Emeritus on Bishop Dr Robert Solomon when he retires from the episcopacy in December 2012.
The proposal to confer him the title was made by the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC), on Sept 4, 2012, Day 2 of the 10th Session of the GC. It was seconded by Mr Han Hai Kwang, Lay Leader of the CAC.
Responding, Bishop Dr Solomon thanked the GC for giving him this privilege and honour, and he expressed his deep appreciation for this “kind gesture”.
Bishop gives rare insight into his ministry for past 12 years
‘A privilege and a burden’
BISHOP DR ROBERT SOLOMON has given a rare insight into his ministry as a bishop for the past 12 years.
In his Episcopal Address at the 10th Session of the General Conference, he said the Lord had called him to serve as bishop for the past 12 years, a ministry that was both a privilege and a burden.
“It is a privilege because it allows one to have a bird’s-eye view of what God is doing in His church and in His world. I have had the joy of visiting and speaking in all our churches and ministering to a broad range of church members.
“I have provided episcopal oversight in the mission field, and seen new national churches planted in countries where there had been no Methodist presence; and taken with me valuable lessons on doing missions that cannot be learned in classrooms or by reading textbooks. I have also had the privilege of ordaining 120 clergy in Singapore; there will be nine more later this year.”
As part of his duties, he had to meet the Prime Minister, government ministers, leaders of other religious communities and other persons of influence to represent the perspectives of the church. He also had the privilege of ministering to people, bringing people to Christ, providing spiritual direction, encouraging pastors and others in their work, and praying for many.
“It was my privilege and joy to exercise the teaching office of the bishop – which is a key role of the episcopal office. In addition to writing regularly in Methodist Message (page 3 of which has been my “regular pulpit”), I have also issued an Episcopal Letter three times a year, attempting to strengthen our Wesleyan roots. I have also met for fellowship with lay leaders from all our churches to discuss common matters and issues of interest. In the process, connectional relationships across the whole connection have been strengthened to some extent. I have also addressed queries from church members, leaders and pastors on various doctrinal and pastoral issues.
“I have also been at the receiving end of the respect for the office of bishop that many people still have. For all these privileges I am most humbled and thankful.”
But the episcopal office also comes with many burdens. Many people have a certain idea of the bishop’s role and authority that does not match with reality. “Frequently enough, I have received complaints from church members about decisions, practices, trends and teachings with a request to look into the matter and deal with it.
“Many members think that the bishop can simply call a church to stop doing something or to discipline or transfer a pastor. Their ideas of the episcopal role may be more in line with those from other more strongly episcopal structures or from older versions of Methodist polity. In many cases, I have passed on complaints and requests to the President or person concerned.”
The Bishop said that leadership in church brings with it its own share of trials and suﬀerings. Part of this is due to the wiles of the devil who acts against the church and its witness and mission. Part of it is due to sinful human nature acting to make life diﬃcult.
“My experience has shown me that it is a spiritual battle and underscored for me the need to have God’s protection and the prayer of God’s people. The oﬃce comes with the burden of dealing with diﬃcult persons and situations and grossly unfair criticism of persons and the church, and often in a rather powerless way. The burden of seeing unhelpful trends and creeping worldliness, and worrying about the future of the church, and having to deal with the media and the new challenges of social media all come with the office. Whoever is the new bishop, I urge you to please support and pray for your bishop.
“I have learned that when God calls us to ministry and leadership, it is more to finish His work in us than anything we can do for God. I am most grateful to God for His enabling grace and mercy, and for being with me and standing by me (2 Tim. 4:17) in both happy and difficult times. The Lord has used diﬀerent situations to teach me more about Him and to draw me closer to Him. This remains my greatest blessing in my ministry as bishop.’’