In the previous issue of Methodist Message, it was reported that we are not ready at the present time for a one-Conference MCS.
What all the efforts in these past months have highlighted to the leadership is that much preparatory work is still needed at ground level. The current structure has been in place for more than 40 years. Since then, the Ministry of Education has closed all mother tongue schools. English is now used in 36 of our local churches across the three conferences. Mandarin and dialects are used in 32 local churches (16 each in TRAC and CAC), and Tamil worship and ministries are also found in all three conferences. Land use laws have affected the pace of church planting. Our average church growth between 2006 and 2016 was 2.5 per cent per annum; between 2016 and 2018 it was 1 per cent per annum. We have become an institution so large it takes us many meetings to come to finalise decisions.
Continuing to build on missional unity
Missional unity is a key strategy in church growth, given the words of John 17:21 (NIV)— “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. To John Wesley, this means keeping to our articles of faith and our connexion, and it also means we value our diversity based on culture, age, experiences and contexts that we may reach out to others.
With different cultural backgrounds and developmental history among the three Annual Conferences, missional unity is what God will use to demonstrate the power of the cross. The less division, the more collaboration, the stronger the church, the clearer that others will see Christ.
Against such a background, since the beginning of the year, the Structural Review Task Force has established 12 Work Groups (WGs) covering various administrative and ministry aspects. They comprise board members, local ministry staff and members from the different Annual Conferences and have been tasked to:
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current boards in the Annual Conferences and how these are helpful to the ministries or administration of the Local Churches.
- Identify the crying needs of the Local Churches and how an integrated Council or cross-conference collaboration may bring greater good for the Local Churches and MCS as a whole.
Over the past few months, seven WGs have met: these are for ADMIN (covering Archives, Governance, HR, Communication), AGE-RELATED MINISTRIES (covering Seniors, Youth and Young Adults, Family and Children), WORSHIP and MUSIC, MISSIONS and EVANGELISM, SOCIAL CONCERN, SOCIAL ENTERPRISE. There is also a special group on how the Annual Conferences can work better together that I, as Bishop, chairs.
They are excited about the intentionality in this coming together in earnest discussion with others across Conference lines. There is a buzz among the members as they contemplate the impact of sharing resources for achieving common goals, and they eagerly anticipate opportunities to work closer together to meet needs as one body.
These WGs play a very important role as they hear from the ground, make recommendations, and pave the way for closer connectivity and missional unity among the members. There are areas where it will not serve the church for us to work separately. In addition, we must create more platforms for people and local churches to find and connect with others with the same concerns and passions.
There is some way to go, but let’s press on. Keep praying.
This is an excerpt from a speech that Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung delivered to the leaders at the Laity Session on 17 Aug 2019.
Photo courtesy of Richard Tan and Henry Tan