Sunday, November 29, 2009

What's up at Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia's 20th annual general assembly?

I was invited by my clustermate, who is an elder at Gereja Grace Presbyterian Batu Pahat, to attend Malaysia Presbyterian Church's English Speaking Presbytery's 20th annual general assembly over the weekend. I woke up at 5 am on Friday morning travel across from Singapore to Larkin in Johor in order to catch a long distant coach to Kuala Lumpur. Managed to get one which reached at 1pm. The rest of the day is conference all the way until the next day's afternoon.

I met some of the young Presby church leaders and a seminarian there. The seminarian is Yoshua Chua, a student at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. What was interesting is that when we met, he asked me for my full name after I introduced myself as 'Joshua Woo'. That was an unusual question coming from someone I just met. Nonetheless I told him. And it appears that he came to my blog before. It was good meeting people in real life who read some of the stuffs I posted here.

During the session on 'Mission', one of the pastors updated us about a recent missionary initiative to Myanmar. The team went to Tahan Theological Seminary there to teach local church leaders. In the midst of the presentation, the speaker made this remark, "Myanmar's people travel from one place to another need to pay the local authority taxes, an exercise sanctioned by the government to control citizens. We need to pray for them and train their missionaries and pastors."

That remark is ambivalent. It can have two meanings. To be skeptical, one would question what's the relevance between a country's political state and the raising up of missionaries and pastors? Will they fight to remove the local government? Isn't it better and relevant to train up politicians for them (assuming the Gereja Presbyterian Church can)?

Or, to give the presenter the benefit of doubt, what he meant by 'missionaries' and 'pastors' are those people who serve the church not only religiously but also socially and politically. Meaning these church leaders will be the ones who will right the socio-polity in the country, if not overturning the junta.

It is your pick on how to interpret that.

During the same session, another presenter introduced the next speaker along this line, "He was from the business world. Now he has quit his business and spearheading the mission work among the orang asli. Previously he was occupied by his business. Now his mind is always on the kingdom of God."

If L.T. Jeyachandran heard that, he would had fallen off from his chair. He is currently the Executive Director of RZIM Ministries Asia-Pacific branch. He always say to everyone, "I don't like to say that I am now in full-time ministry. That would mean that for the past 28 years of being a senior civil engineer in India, before I joined RZIM, I was not serving God, or that the kingdom of God has no concern or relevance in my work." A powerful statement. Even in business, God's kingdom is there. I was quiet surprised that I heard a Presbyterian leader making the implication that the business world does not belong to God while missionary work among orang asli does.

Overall the whole annual assembly parallels political discourse of a party or a country. They report on past activities, present problems, and new initiatives. Add to that, they talked about healthcare and salary scale. These are 'who gets what and says who' issues. The fundamental discourses in political philosophy.

And I was quiet surprise that the Presbytery organized a '1Malaysia' church worship event recently (page 36 of the ESP's 20th AGM report). I don't know why the name but it is very disturbing.

Malaysians know that '1Malaysia' is Najib's fanciful concept to dupe citizens that he and his administration care for unity and equality among Malaysians. But we know that that's a lie. The recent expose of Najib's administration's program in indoctrinating undergraduates with racism, confiscated 15,000 copies of Christian's Bibles, and banning the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims do not reflect 1Malaysia. And by referencing to that concept in a church event is in a way acknowledging and endorsing the government's lie. Very disturbing.

Another highlight is that I was approached to consider exploring a possible job serving as a 'youth pastor' with a Presbyterian church in KL. I really appreciate their openness but I am not a 'pastoral' person as you all, friends who read this blog, know. Nonetheless I would like to explore more after I found out that that particular church is somewhat not a typical local Presby church. Some of the ministries that they support and recognize show their emphases and theology. For example, they recognize Malaysian theologian Ng Kam Weng's research center.

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