What does the passing away of Bishop Albert Vun mean to the Diocese and regular Anglican members? It is a question that many have been asking for months, but the reality sinks in as the late Bishop was laid to rest yesterday. BAV is not longer at helm. So what’s next?
The coming days and months are critical for the Diocese. Without a sitting Bishop, the Provincial House of Bishop needs to appoint a Vicar General to lead the Anglican Diocese of Sabah until the next Bishop is elected. The assistant Bishops do not by default become the next Bishop or Vicar General. Who the HOB appoint as Vicar General will indicate if ADOS will have more of the status quo or a chance for restoration.
Who will be the Vicar General? Apparently only a Bishop or Archdeacon can be considered for a Vicar General. For ADOS, that narrows the eligibility to four persons: John Yeo, Melter Tais, Yong Ping Chung and Yong Chen Fah. Moses Chin, striped of Archdeaconship last year, is out of the picture. The HOB did not approve John Yeo’s appointment as Assistant Bishop in the first time asking. It was only approved when BAV returned with a strong assertion a year later. So Melter Tais seems to be the frontrunner. The problem is both assistant Bishops have tainted reputation when they lied in a public meeting at All Saints Cathedral. Their close allegiance to BAV suggest it would be more of the same if either become the Vicar General.
What about the two former Bishops, Ping Chung & his younger brother Chen Fah? Some expressed disappointments with their silence–at least publicly–throughout the crisis. While both have privately offered encouragement, many wish they had done more. Their neutrality and good standing in the Diocese may place them as the most non-partisan candidates.
There is also a third option–to appoint a Vicar General from the Diocese of Kuching, West Malaysia or Singapore. The more important question is the term of reference for the Vicar General. What does the HOB want him to do? How much authority will HOB grant the Vicar General?
The Vicar General will oversee the election of the next Bishop. To ensure impartiality, the VG cannot be a candidate to be the next Bishop. Quietly, neither John Yeo nor Melter Tais wants to be the VG. It explains why the Stand Comm did not put forth any names on the appointment of VG when Archbishop Bolly them after the funeral. To be appointed as the VG will be a death knell to their ambition to the Bishop’s throne.
The VG’s job also entails administrative work–signing of cheques, leave approvals, chairing meetings including the coming Synod next month. Someone needs to captain the ship–albeit temporary. Whether he will have any authority to dismantle some of BAV’s unpopular legacy such as House of Celebration and ATI remains to be seen. It is unclear if BAV has signed any contracts to building House of Celebration. If would be a big mess to “unmess” for the VG and next Bishop as the project is not widely supported.
ATI is a bigger problem. For the last three years the Diocese has not sent anyone to an accredited seminary. Even if the Diocese were to send a candidate to a seminary today, it would be four years later before he or she can complete the training. As it is, our workers continue to be trained by a largely unqualified faculty and an unaccredited ATI. Will the VG has any authority to reverse this policy and rebuild bridges with seminaries in the region which BAV had dismantled?
The biggest concern is the spiritual life of Anglicans. We long for the joy of worship, the pleasure of serving, the zeal for evangelism, the togetherness of a family. When can this be restored? It depends so much on the appointment of Vicar General.
After 400 years of being enslaved, when the Israelites were freed, they wanted to return to their slave masters. Such is the effect of emotional and spiritual abuse. The victims have troubles living in liberty because they are conditioned to live in a dysfunctional relationship. Without the slave driver to crack the whip, bark abuses and tell them what to do and how to think, the victims are at loss. The immediate response is to find another abuser to fill the void.
The clergy, laity, Standing Committee and PCCs across ADOS needs healing and restoration so they can lead, debate, agree, disagree, conceive visions from God and execute them without fearing abuse from Wisma Anglican. My brothers and sisters, while BAV preached from his grave on Friday, know this man can no longer hurt and abuse you. By the grace of God we can forgive. The blood of Jesus can cleanse us and Diocese. By the stripes of Jesus we can be healed.
There are so many bridges to rebuild, relationship to restore, wrongs to make right. It all starts with a first step–Vicar General. Let’s pray for this important first step. It is the first fresh leadership appointment in the post-BAV era. While the HOB’s past decisions do not inspire confidence, we pray the appoint of VG will bring a new dawn to ADOS and the Anglican commune of South East Asia. God’s hands are more powerful than any human plots.