BISHOP DR WEE BOON HUP, the new bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), anticipates his immediate priority to be the role of leading the MCS to take on the challenge of holiness: “To live out what we know the Scripture teaches, in the context of today.”
The Bishop was speaking to Methodist Message in an interview held prior to his consecration. When asked for his vision for the MCS in the coming quadrennium, he declined to give a general statement that would, in his view, be difficult to implement across different churches that each meet the different needs of their unique congregational profiles.
Instead, he pointed out that the key things we are called to do as Christians are clearly spelt out in Scripture, such as regularly meeting in a worshipping community, continuing in personal worship during the rest of the week, and expressing love to others.
As Methodists, too, our focus on personal and social holiness remains the same, and we are still called to holiness through the avenues of worship, discipleship, evangelism, missions, and caring for the poor and needy.
He acknowledged that being the Bishop in our local Methodist context meant that he had no executive authority in the operative sense, and was more of a spiritual authority whose main influence would come through the teaching office of the Bishop – preaching, teaching in seminars and courses, writing and other forms of communication.
Here, he paid tribute to his predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, for his excellent work in this area, particularly with his quarterly Episcopal Letters and his monthly Bishop’s Message in Methodist Message.
However, Bishop Dr Wee noted that local Methodist churches rarely get a chance to hear from their Annual Conference President and much less from their Bishop. Hence, he hoped to work closely with the Council on Communications in exploring other avenues for more regular communication between the Bishop’s Office and the congregation.
One of these possible avenues is careful engagement through social media or the MCS website (www.methodist.org. sg) which could be made more active or interactive. These could enable the Bishop to reach out to the general Methodist audience as well as people outside the church.
“This is important as the church is constantly facing challenges to values and beliefs. Some challenges are open, but some are subtle. We must consider how to keep stating and restating in different ways what the church believes, and guide members to walk in those beliefs,” he said.
In this way, the church may have opportunities to influence conversations taking place among Christians and nonChristians. This is not new as the Bishop’s Office has always been very much involved in national issues and must work with leaders of other denominations and churches to address some of these issues together.
The challenge, therefore, is to be true to what God is expecting for us to live in our lives while still loving our neighbours who may have a different culture. We may succumb to the tendency to adjust and live like the world we are in, but is there an alternative that is truly Biblical and authentic?
On the other hand, the other tendency is to turn to traditionalism for security without re-examining and re-interpreting it in the present context. Not only would Christians end up being seen as narrow and parochial, this would mean we tend not to engage except to fight. Bishop Dr Wee asked: “How do we engage in a way that is transformative instead?”
Certain trends in the Methodist church were also a concern for the new Bishop. Firstly, he noted that some churches may be losing the sense of our Methodist connection. “We have to ask ourselves: What makes us Methodist, and what will be our contribution to the Kingdom of God as a whole?”
Secondly, he saw the possibility that the Methodist church may be losing its young people, both youth and young adults. The challenge, he felt, was to reach out not just to the young in our churches but also to those outside the church. He noted the importance of relationships and the building of attachment.
Thirdly, he felt the church as a whole had not really addressed the issue of the ageing population. He foresaw a problem grooming and nurturing leaders in the church, especially if older leaders were not encouraged to stay long enough to provide their wisdom and counsel to the next generation.
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.
The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup was consecrated as the new Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore on Dec 7, 2012. – Picture by DANIEL LIE.