8TH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH IN MALAYSIA
THE Rev Dr Hwa Yung, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christian-ity in Asia at Trinity Theological College, Singapore, has been elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia. The election was held on Sept 22 during the 8th Session of its General Conference in Kuala Lumpur from Sept 20 to 25, 2004.
It was one of two significant events at the conference, which was held at the Royale Bintang Hotel. The other was the acceptance of a petition from the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) to change the Sabah Mission Conference to the Sabah Provisional Annual Conference.
The petition, tabled by the Rev Ting Daik Choung, President of the SCAC, was accepted within 10 minutes without any debate or opposition.
To roars of approval and loud applause, Bishop Datuk Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching said: “We want to glorify God. We want to extend His Kingdom. So, let us all continue to work together.
“Let us share our care, love and concerns with this little brother of ours.” The Rev Dr Hwa Yung was elected on the third ballot. At 4 pm sharp, the incumbent bishop, Bishop Dr Chio, with a smile, announced: “We have an election.” As soon as the results of the election were declared, applause broke out and delegates sitting near the Rev Dr Hwa Yung at the back of the conference hall got up to congratulate him.
He was immediately invited to the front of the hall to sit at the Presiding Table with Bishop Dr Chio, Bishop Dr Leo Soriano of The United Methodist Church of the Philippines Central Conference, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, Bishop Emeritus Datuk Dr Denis Dutton, a former bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia, and the Rev Jim Jones, the Fraternal Representative from The Methodist Church in Britain.
The Rev Dr Hwa Yung was seconded to the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia by The Methodist Church in Malaysia in July 2001. He is returning to Malaysia to assume the post of Bishop. The centre conducts research and post-graduate studies on the state and growth of the church in Asia, with degree programmes up to the doctoral level.
In his acceptance speech, he said: “I thank you for your support and the way you voted. “I have never seen myself as bishop. I am happy where I am and I enjoy doing the work I do.” Yet, as a Methodist minister, he said, he had to respond to the call of God. “I thank God for calling me to you and for calling me to serve Him.”
To ripples of laughter, he said he is not an easy-going, social person, but “I’ll try” to be one. “Please pray for me … and my wife.” The theme for the six-day General Conference was “Wesleyan Spirit: The World Is My Parish”. Except for the last day, Bishop Dr Soriano was the speaker for the morning worship for the entire conference.
The conference opened with a welcome dinner at a downtown Chinese restaurant on Sept 20. This was immediately followed by the Opening Thanksgiving and Holy Communion Service at Wesley Methodist Church at which Bishop Dr Solomon was the speaker.
The Rev Dr Hwa Yung was consecrated at Tamil Methodist Church, Kuala Lumpur on Sept 25. Bishop Dr Solomon handed a congratulatory letter dated Sept 25 to the Rev Dr Hwa Yung. He wrote: “It is indeed wonderful news and The Methodist Church in Singapore joins me in sending you our heartiest congratulations. We pray that under your able leadership, The Methodist Church in Malaysia will grow from strength to strength. May God grant you His wisdom, strength and grace.”
The letter incorporated an invitation to the new Malaysian bishop to attend and speak at the 8th General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore (which was held from Oct 18 to 23).
Bishop Dr Solomon, who was the guest speaker at the Consecration Service of the new Malaysian Bishop, preached on the topic “Strive Together With Me”.
He said that it was “no easy thing to be a bishop, and he must turn to God”. “No amount of church titles or university or seminary degrees can ultimately make the difference, important as they are. What makes the ultimate difference is the grace of God. That is why we are here. And that is why we must pray for the bishop. And he must remain close to God.”
What makes a bishop tick? Knowledge of the Majesty of God and the Mission of God, he said. This is a high calling, and that is why in the early church people were reluctant to become bishops.
There are three episcopal functions – teaching (against errors and heresies, defending the church), preserving unity (connectional work), and mission leadership. Each of these is inspired by the majesty and mission of God.
Said Bishop Dr Solomon: “In the globalised world we live, the church faces immense stresses and influences. It is in such a situation that we need leaders in the church who have a good sense of the majesty of God and who commit themselves to declaring that majesty and seeing it cherished, respected and experienced in church.”
On the mission of God, he said: “We need to be clear about this mission entrusted to us. Leadership in mission is required to inspire the church to remember its calling. “Paul understood the mission of God well. It involved building up the church of Christ, creating Christian communities everywhere and building them into maturity.
“Paul’s mission statement included proclaiming the Gospel of Christ among the Gentiles, perfecting God’s people, and propagating the Kingdom of God.”
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
STOP PRESS: Bishop Dr Solomon re-elected
BISHOP Dr Robert Solomon has been re-elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS). He will serve a second four-year term for the quadrennium 2004-2008.
He was elected on the first day of the 8th Session of the General Conference of the MCS at Methodist Centre on Oct 18, 2004. He won the election on the second ballot with 28 votes, the two-thirds majority needed to win the election.
There will be a re-dedication for the bishop at Barker Road Methodist Church on Dec 9, 2004.
He was first elected Bishop at the 7th Session of the church’s General Conference at Paya Lebar Methodist Church on Sept 27, 2000 when he was Principal of Trinity Theological College.
A doctor, he graduated from the University of Singapore with an MBBS in 1980. Later, he decided to enter full-time ministry, and has pastored Toa Payoh Tamil Methodist Church and the Tamil Methodist Church at Short Street.
In 1984, he obtained his Master in Divinity (Summa cum laude) from the Asian Theological Seminary as well as M.I.S. (Hons) (Intercultural Studies) from the Alliance Biblical Seminary. He obtained his Ph. D. in pastoral theology from Edinburgh University in 1993.