GENERAL CONFERENCE OF GEREJA METHODIST INDONESIA
GEREJA METHODIST INDONESIA (GMI) — The Methodist Church in Indonesia — celebrated its 100th Anniversary in October and elected two new bishops for the quadrennium beginning now and ending in 2009.
At its General Conference in Lembang, outside Bandung in West Java, 316 delegates elected the Rev Dr H. Doloksaribu and the Rev Petrus Kohar as bishops on Oct 14, 2005, the second day of the four-day conference. The theme of the conference was “In the unity of the Holy Spirit to serve the nation”.
The Rev Dr Doloksaribu will be the Bishop of Region 1, based in Medan, and the Rev Kohar will be the Bishop of Region 2, based in Jakarta. Both men were elected on the first ballot.
As soon as Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, who presided at the election, declared them as duly elected, applause greeted the announcement. The Rev Dr Doloksaribu had served as Bishop of GMI previously.
Even before the results had been officially announced, the delegates cheered when it became clear that the Rev Dr Doloksaribu had obtained the two-thirds majority of 211 votes required to win the election. That was at 3.35 pm on Oct 14.
Three minutes later, another round of applause filled the conference hall when the Rev Kohar secured 211 votes.
Bishop R. P. M. Tambunan of Region 1 and Bishop Bachtiar Kwee of Region 2, who were retiring, were among the first to congratulate the two new bishops.
Both the new bishops were overcome by emotion. After regaining their composure, they gave their “acceptance” speech. They pledged to work together and called for unity among the church members from the two regions.
Bishop Dr Solomon conducted the morning devotion on Oct 14 and 15. He spoke respectively on “Servants of the Lord”, based on 1 Peter 2 and 4: 3-7, and “Suffering Saints”, based on 1 Peter 3 and 4. His messages were interpreted into Bahasa Indonesia by the Rev Denny Nainggolan, Pastor of Grace Methodist Church, Jakarta.
One of the main issues raised at the conference was the strengthening of the connectional system of the GMI.
A workshop group emphasised the importance and urgency of taking steps to improve the workings of GMI’s connectional system, “which is a distinctive of the Methodist Church”.
This was especially necessary as the GMI has two regions which are far apart.
The group recommended that an Executive Secretary be appointed for the Council of Bishops to help the two bishops strengthen the connectional system and forge closer ties among the church members from the two regions.
The conference ended with a Closing Service and the Consecration Service for the two new Bishops at Gereja Methodist Indonesia Imanuel in Jakarta on the morning of Oct 16. Conference delegates had been driven in cars and buses from Lembang to Jakarta for the 10 am service. They left as early as 7 am for the two-and-a-half hour journey.
The 2,000-seat church was filled to capacity with conference delegates, GMI Imanuel church members and Methodists from other churches in Jakarta.
Bishop Dr Hwa Yung of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was the guest preacher. He spoke on servanthood and leadership. He said pastors and church leaders should not be ambitious and aspire to leadership positions for power. Instead, they should strive to serve and, should they acquire leadership skills in the process, that would be a gain for the church.
Bishop Dr Hwa Yung, Bishop Dr Solomon and bishops from Myanmar, Taiwan and South Korea laid hands on Bishop Dr Doloksaribu and Bishop Kohar when they were consecrated.
At GMI Imanuel Church later in the afternoon, GMI celebrated its 100th Anniversary with an almost four-hour colourful musical depicting its birth and growth.
After conveying his greetings to GMI on behalf of The Methodist Church in Singapore, Bishop Dr Solomon presented a pewter ware plate to Bishop Dr Doloksaribu and Bishop Kohar.
Besides the visiting bishops other special guests included missionaries from the United Methodist Church who had served in Indonesia in the past.
The well-choreographed musical opened with scenes of John Wesley, his siblings and their parents at their home. It was made clear immediately that discipline was the order of the day at the Wesley home. The scene then shifted to a young John Wesley, who, after his ordination as an Anglican priest at aged 25, headed for America to be a missionary.
From then on, the story of how Methodism flourished in America and thenin Asia, with special emphasis on Indonesia, unfurled. Various church members took on the roles of the earliest American missionaries and latter-day Indonesian preachers and church leaders spreading the Gospel in various languages and dialects.
A highlight of the musical was the series of tribal and traditional dances performed by the youth in their glittering, colourful costumes. Each dance, depicting the culture of a tribe or province, was performed after a scene showing a preacher evangelising to the local community.
When the musical ended, rapturous roars, followed by congratulatory handshakes and hugs, greeted the young performers. It was a fitting tribute not only to them but also, and more importantly, to Gereja Methodist Indonesia.
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message