It’s been over a month since we learned that Bishop Albert Vun was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Most of us go through a range of emotion from denial, shock, disbelief, confusion, fear, acceptance to a quiet confidence that God is totally in charge. What do we make out of BAV’s illness? Let us discuss the three most common answers to this question.
Some see BAV’s pancreatic cancer as a random event in life. Everyone dies, eventually. Whether unexpectedly in an accident, peacefully in old age, suddenly in a heart attack, death will overtake us all. Many Christians are ill. Some are diagnosed with cancer too. BAV is just one of them, a mortal to be called home soon by the Lord. There is no deeper meaning to BAV’s illness. He is probably overworked and stressed out, thus making him more susceptible to serious sickness.
To take on this view, we’ll have to disregard all that had transpired in the last two years in the Diocese. The Bishop is accused of serious indiscretions and investigated by the Province. Instead of refuting the allegations, BAV, Bishop Moses Tay and the clergy resorted to the posturing of power, telling the congregations that God is their judge, that the congregation not to “touch the Lord’s anointed” and let God deal with BAV. To view BAV’s illness as a random event in life would require us to disregard the context, ignore the sovereignty of God and forget what had happened so recently.
Then there are people who blame the pancreatic cancer on those who pray for God to remove BAV as the Bishop. “You brought down curses on the Bishop and now he is stricken with cancer,” they argue. This argument is problematic on several counts. First, praying to remove an unfit leader is not the same as cursing someone with cancer. Secondly, even if someone indeed cursed BAV, the Bible teaches us that an undeserved curse does not come to rest. See Proverbs 26:2. Thirdly, it assumes that God would grant the most vile of prayers. Yet Scripture teaches us God is righteous; He cannot act unrighteously or support unrighteousness. He is also just thus incapable of acting unjustly. Even when He judges and punishes, He does so from the basis of righteousness and his love for his people. Finally, God is sovereign. He is not a stooge that kowtow to our wishes just because we nag him long enough, pray loudly, use impressive words or drown the church with sounds of shofars. He is who He is. He does what He knows is right and just.
It is puzzling why prayer meetings are descending into a shouting match. Do we have to pray aggressively and militantly, breaking curses, “blocking the fiery darts”, declaring and decreeing for complete healing for God to listen to us? Is God deaf? Or is He deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened, like Baal who never answered? The Bible teaches us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of our Father interceding for us. God is a good father who knows what we want before we even ask. He will not give us scorpions when we ask for a fish or stones when we ask for a bread. If we truly believe our God is so, then why are prayer items are so scientific and specific that one wonders if God needs an oncologist to teach him how to heal a pancreatic cancer patient. He is our FATHER for goodness sake. Stop shouting at Him! He doesn’t need a medical manual!
My brothers and sisters, please do not mistake adrenaline for anointing and euphoria for effective prayer. The Bible teaches us the key to God hearing our prayers is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Perhaps we should stop decreeing and declaring, but put on sackcloth and heap ashes on our heads. Perhaps we need more humility rather than presuming that God is on our side.
Finally, there are people who believe BAV’s illness did not happen by chance nor by curses, but rather because of God’s divine intervention. After two years of being in full blown crisis mode, with the PAC report and management letter concluding all is not well with the leadership of BAV, the Bishop of Sabah returned from six months of enforced leave seemingly unstoppable. He got away with lying to the congregation at All Saints Cathedral, millions in expenditure still unexplained, manipulating the election of PCC members in All Saints. After the PAC investigation and report, a court injunction, a signature campaign, vehement objection to Philip Lo’s ordination all came to nought, many wondered if this is a struggle worth fighting for. The church is in disarray. The people continued to suffer. BAV was home free.
When BAV’s position seemed most secure in 2 years and the people in the deepest despair, Bishop Albert Vun was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Those who had always insisted that only God could judge the Bishop, now argue that sicknesses do not come from God. How do we reconcile this stand with God sending 10 plagues to Egypt, striking Miriam with leprosy in Numbers 12, killing Ananias and Sapphira in church, blinding Saul on the road to Damascus? Nobody dare say BAV’s cancer is a judgement from God, yet as news of his illness spread, the fear of the Lord descend upon our church as it did to the Israelites in Egypt and wilderness, to the early church, and to Saul on the road to Damascus.
In Mathew 16:1-3, Jesus said, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
Can we discern what our Father is doing? Or are we like the Pharisees and Sadducees who were oblivious of the forthcoming ruin? In Matthew 16, Jesus left the Pharisees and Sadducees and went away. A scholar interpreted the passage this manner, “Jesus left them to themselves, left them in the hand of their own counsels; so he gave them up to their own hearts’ lust.”
If BAV’s illness is not a random event or the result of curses, then we must conclude it is God’s sovereign act. Thus we must consider what God is saying both to us and to BAV and seek the Holy Spirit for an appropriate response, or risk Christ leaving us to our hearts’ lust as he did the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16. This is a rare word from the Lord, a shout so loud that we ignore to our own peril.
May God help us and have mercy upon us.
After six months of rest, replenishing and reflection in UK and USA, Bishop Albert Vun in his first message to the Diocese, concluded he has nothing to apologize for and nobody to apologize to. This blog would like to remind BAV the tens of thousands in honorarium he received for speaking and conducting confirmation services around the Diocese.
Being Asians we love showing appreciation by buying meals or gifts. In Bishop Chhoa and Bishop Yong’s time, buying souvenirs or small gifts such as books were common. So when the Bishop visited the parishes, they would get some free meals and small gifts. It was a simple way of saying, “Thank you Bishop for your hard work.” The food and gifts may not be necessarily what the Bishop wanted or needed, but they were never despised. Who in the right mind would criticize a gift? Some would give Ang Pow but it was always voluntary, never demanded much less made into standard operating procedure or culture.
Things changed under BAV. In his first meeting with the clergy as the Bishop of Sabah, he directed churches to do away with gifts and souvenirs but give him money instead. BAV also taught his clergy they should not honor visiting speakers more than they did their own colleagues. That means Diocesan clergy should be given honorarium when they teach and speak at Diocesan events, just as visiting speakers do.
Our clergy who speak at Children Camp, Youth Camp, retreats and other Diocesan events received extra money, on top of paying for their traveling and accommodation expenses. Thus money becomes a measure of honor and BAV ushers in a culture of money and greed to the clergy.
What you will see here is a series of honorariums made to Bishop Albert Vun and Bishop John Yeo, Bishop Melter Tais from St. Patrick’s Church and All Saints Cathedral. This blog learns that in 2011, St. Luke in Telupid under Melter Tais gave BAV about RM7000 for one of BAV’s overseas trips and then another RM1000 or RM2000 for conducting confirmation service in the same year.
What you see above are only money given to the from 3 churches. It is unclear now much honorarium BAV, John Yeo and Melter Tais have received from various parishes in Sabah since they were appointed bishops.
1. Ethics & Corruption
The bishops receive monthly salaries, free accommodation, free use of church vehicles, fuel allowance plus whatever subsistence allowances they are entitled to. When they conduct confirmation out of town, the Diocese pay their airfares, the local parishes provided transport to and from the airport and likely host a dinner for the bishops. On top of all the above, the Bishop still get an honorarium of RM1000-7000 for conducting a confirmation service which can only be performed by a bishop already on Diocesan payroll? It would have been a different scenario if the an honorarium were given to a retired Bishop. Is it acceptable if a police accepted extra money to look into an investigation, or a land office staff took more money to process a land transfer, or a bank manager an expensive gift to approve a loan? Why should it be acceptable for bishops to receive extra money to do their job?
The bishops will argue these payments were approved by PCCs or exco. The question is not limited to how honorariums are approved, but whether they are reasonable. What is the guideline and quantum for honorariums? Who decides this? Is it ethical for bishops in active ministry to accept honorariums for conducting conformation? What is Bishop Albert Vun’s official stand on this? If BAV thinks it is legit, it would be fair for the three Bishops to voluntarily disclose how much honorarium they have received from the Diocese and parishes in Sabah since they become bishops.
Let’s not forget the bonuses BAV gave himself without prior consent from the Stand Comm.
2. Merry Go Round
Herbert Tong told the whole Diocese there was no loss of money or misappropriation of fund. How does this statement hold in the light of the latest evidence? Clearly, the bishops give each other honorariums. Is this a systematic way of moving church funds into private pockets under the banner of “honoring” the bishops? We’ve only seen honorariums paid by 3 churches, there are nearly 30 “self-sufficient” parishes in the Diocese. We don’t know how many give the bishops honorariums. If your fellow colleagues give, would you as a priest dare not to give? Those who don’t will look as if they do not honor their bosses. And our clergy has the audacity to preach to the members to tithe even when we disagree with the leadership?
3. Tax Evasion?
Did the bishops include free housing, cars and other allowance in their tax declarations? What about the honorariums they received here and abroad? Will they get into trouble if someone take these ledger entries and file a complaint with the Inland Revenue?
BAV often quotes 1 Timothy 5:17 to support his assertions pastors and those who teaches the Word of God deserves “double honour”. Does it mean priests and Bishops deserve double pay? We will explore the biblical angle of “honouring” in the next posting.
Bishop Albert Vun, can you think of something you need to say sorry for? A commenter wrote, “Judas did wrong, betrayed Jesus, and never said sorry. BAV: you are on dangerous ground.”
After the 10 delegates met with the HOB, presented over 1200 signatures to the HOB and made their case, Bishop Albert Vun met with the HOB a few weeks later. Since BAV had always maintained all allegations were false and malicious, debunking falsehood would be the easiest thing to do. Instead of defending himself with evidences, BAV asked for letters of endorsements from the two assistant Bishops and people. At the moment of life and death, he could only show letters of support–not a shred of defence or evidence. Why? When Bishop Albert Vun couldn’t defend the indefensible, he played the only card in his hand. Support. Or more correctly, faux & blind support.
The following are emails exchanges between BAV, John Yeo and Melter Tais, and a letter of support prepared by Melter to the House of Bishops. Melter’s email and letter were sent in June 2012 while the PAC was in town to investigate allegations against BAV.
We can speculate BAV presented letters of support from the Interior churches & priests (via Melter Tais), Urban churches & priests (via John Yeo) and the 2nd motion of the Synod which affirmed that BAV is God’s anointed leader for ADOS. Consider this:
1. The Conspiracy of the 2nd Motion
BAV started the Synod by crying, hugging and begging for forgiveness of James Chhoa. Then he concealed the Management Letter from the Synod which came to light a week after the Synod. What he truly wanted out of the Synod was the 2nd motion. It didn’t matter he had to put on an Oscar-worthy performance and David Copperfield act to hide the Management Letter from the Synod. It had to be done so BAV could secure proof of support to the House of Bishops albeit with deceit and concealment. In the same way, the feet washing charade was never about reconciliation but securing enough pledge cards to shore up political support.
The vote count for the 2nd motion was 95 yes, 53 nay or abstention. Imagine the vote count if the Management Letter had been presented during the Synod?
2. Melter Lied Again?
Melter told the HOB he was not instructed by BAV to write the letter. Really? Subsequently BAV forwarded Melter’s email and letter to John Yeo and instructed Yeo to write a letter of support. So John Yeo was instructed but Melter wasn’t? Again, the integrity of the leaders of ADOS is called to question. Could Meter Tais have lied to the House of Bishop?
By the way, how does weekly church attendance have anything to do with the allegations that BAV abused his power? After 3 months of investigation, the PAC reported BAV is answerable 38 of 40 allegations against him. For Melter Tais to assert the allegations against BAV are half-truths while the investigation had barely started is mind boggling. On top of that, Melter even rallied a signature campaign amongst the interior clergies before the investigators had completed their work. At the end of the PAC’s findings prove Melter wrong. Either Melter has misled the people or he is misinformed. Either way, can we still trust the integrity and discernment of this assistant Bishop?
3. HOB fooled?
For reasons known only to the HOB, BAV’s letters of support seemed to have swayed HOB from what BAV fears most, convening the Ecclesiastical Court. To Archbishop Bolly, Bishop Moon Hing and Bishop Rennis, is the truth determined by vote count? Can we determine the deity of Jesus Christ by a global referendum? Yet the leadership of these three bishops buckled under the appearance of popular support, or more accurately faux support. Since the HOB cannot be relied upon for sound judgement, perhaps the Malaysian civil court will nudge them to do the right, honourable and godly thing.
In the next post, you will see evidence of Bishop Albert Vun pocketing church funds in the most unethical manner. Let’s us all pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sins upon our whole Diocese and open our eyes to see the rapid decay of morality amongst our leaders.
Arrangements are now in hand for a monthly prayer meeting to enable Anglicans in KK to come together for fellowship with God and with each other and to intercede for the Diocese unconstrained by church agendas. Please note the details as follows:
Venue: Sabah Theological Seminary Chapel
Date: First Wednesday of each month – 7th August, 4th September, etc
Time: 8:00 p.m.
How to get to the STS Chapel
To reach STS take Jalan Istana from the city centre beside the Padang and head up Signal Hill. Do not take the left on Jalan Bukit Bendera but keep trending right on Jalan Istana and follow this road to the crest of the ridge. At this point the entrance to the Istana is on the right but turn left into Jalan Pinggir just before reaching the Istana entrance. Follow Jalan Pinggir to the very end where STS will be found on the right.
Drive into STS and follow the road downhill past the main building. The new STS Education Centre with its two levels of car parking is then on the left. The road continues downhill to end at the chapel. There is some parking at the chapel but it is rather limited so it can be easier to park at the Education Centre and walk down to the chapel.
Read this in 中文 & Bahasa Malaysia.
This blog has long warned there is a cynical ploy behind last week’s feet washing ceremony to use it as a political ploy to shore up support for Bishop Albert Vun via the signed covenant cards. Many have questioned why we need to sign something with the church when a covenant is made between God and man? The true motif of the the signed covenant card is revealed in this email sent out yesterday by the Commissary, Herbert Tong.
Consider these questions:
1. Why does the Diocese want a record of our covenant with God? I can understand keeping baptism and confirmation records, but a renewal of our commitment to God? It is none of the Diocese’s business!
2. Why does the Diocese want a record of those of signed versus the size of the congregation? Why is this figure significant for the Diocese unless it is to be twisted into a show of support for Bishop Albert Vun? I think it is fine if the Diocese want to do a referendum on BAV’s leadership openly. Yet to do it under the pretence of renewal of commitment to God is taking the Lord’s Name in vain & abusing the holy office. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” No smokescreen please!
It is suspected BAV will used the number of signed covenant as a barometer of his support. “See I have so many people saying they are happy to move forward together with me, why should I resign?” BAV would tell the PHoB.
3. To priests and clergy who are unhappy with the Commissary’s latest directive. Remember he is only a journey man, passing through our Diocese. What can he do to you if you refuse to collaborate with this ungodly ploy? He is leaving office on 31 July. You want to obey him, a man who has no commitment to the Diocese and had left the Anglican church for over 18 years, and who does not have to take responsibility for the Diocese after 31 July? Or do you want to heed the warning from your church members who have been and will be with you for the long haul? Above all, obey God not man, especially a cynical ploy by a desperate man.
Be watchful my brothers and sisters when we go to church this weekend. The twisted feet washing saga is not over yet.
This is the million dollar question. During last week’s Standing Committee meeting, Archbishop Bolly Lapok announced Bishop Albert Vun will spend August in Singapore and return to the Diocese of Sabah on 1 September. The Commissary will end his term on 31 July. Who will head the Diocese in August? The Archbishop said the PHoB will “work out something”.
This is unexpected. BAV was widely anticipated to resume duties in Sabah on 1 August. Confirmation and several official duties were lined up for him around the Diocese. What is he doing in Singapore for a month? What will take a month to get done? This unexpected turn of events lead to many speculations, amongst them the possibility BAV will leave Sabah and be appointed the “Missionary Bishop” to Thailand or China. It is unclear if this will involve the Province sponsoring a new Diocese to accommodate BAV. Setting up a new diocese will be a lengthy process. This will allow BAV to keep the bishopship, move him out of Sabah and quell a rumoured upcoming legal case. A win-win-win solution? Well this is only one of many stories in the grapevine.
Jockeying for the Bishop’s chair has already started in Sabah, albeit quietly. Afterall if you are Brutus, you have to be certain about eliminating Caesar before you make any moves.
By the way, BAV is spotted at the Eagles Leadership Conference in Singapore recently. He is not listed as a speaker on the website.
The following is an announcement from the group of 15 (5 complainants & 10 delegates).
It has been suggested that an alternative service should be arranged this coming Sunday for members of Anglican churches in Kota Kinabalu who do not wish to attend their normal service because of the foot washing charade. Notwithstanding that a good number of people have indicated that they would welcome such a service, it has been decided not to pursue it for the following reasons:
- It is felt that this would give rise to unnecessary provocation and is therefore better not undertaken at this time; and
- It appears that several of the KK churches will likely not be undertaking any foot washing ceremony because it is seen as unnecessary, unhelpful and unscriptural within the intended context.
Notwithstanding this, the present climate in most of our churches is very discouraging with too much false teaching and hardly any sound scriptural content. To maintain our Christian sanity some of us need to take a break and come together to seek God free of church agendas in humility and love. To this end a regular prayer meeting is being planned. Details will be published nearer to the time.
Thank you and God bless.
Tonight’s feet washing will start with a declaration that “no money is lost and there is no misappropriation of funds”. Diocesan Treasurer Michael Tong has confirmed the disputed 2010-2011 accounts have NOT been re-audited. Henceforth, this declaration is a LIE made in the House of God. I pray everyone is reminded of the story of Ananias & Sapphira who also lied to the church. I pray for God to show mercy to those who are going to proclaim this lie and mislead the sheep.
Acts 4:32 – 5:10
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spiritand have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
The farcical feet washing ceremony is 24 hours away. Here are the latest developments:
1. The 2010-2011 Account is NOT re-audited
During All Saints Cathedral’s PCC meeting last Saturday, when objection to the feet washing ceremony was raised, Dean Chak countered that the controversial accounts of 2010-2011 has been re-audited as per the instruction of Provincial House of Bishops. Other priests are telling church members the same story. To put an end to the speculations, the PCC decided to call Diocesan Treasurer Michael Tong for verification in the middle of the meeting. Mr. Tong confirmed only the 2012 accounts are being audited. How the Commissary Mr. Herbert Tong reached the conclusion that there was “no financial loss and no misappropriation of funds” is beyond right thinking members. To proclaim this LIE in the house of God is a sacrilege.
Herbert Tong’s statement also tantamount to slandering the honorary auditor who signed the management letter and stood by his professional findings. Do we accept the findings of a professional auditor or the statement of the Commissary?
2. A Calculated Political Move
Many asked whose feet will the House of Bishops wash? None of the members who took issue with Bishop Albert Vun’s the abuse of power, money and position is attending the feet washing ceremony. Why is the officialdom pushing forward with a whitewashed event? Many believe it is a calculated political move to show support for beleaguered BAV and to hoodwink the House of Bishops to believing BAV enjoys widespread support. The ASC AGM has taught us getting a packed church is very easy for BAV. The signed pledge card will be used as a barometer of support, painting the complainants as a vicious minority in any legal battles ahead.
Why does BAV need numbers to prop up his position when anyone who stands on the side of God’s truth and righteousness is already a majority?
3. Diocese-wide Coercion
Officially, the three main worship centres (All Saints Cathedral, Good Shepherd Church & St. Patrick’s Church) will conduct the feet washing ceremony tomorrow, while other worship centres “may” conduct it this Sunday. Christ Church Likas’ PCC decided not to go ahead it but the Commissary overruled the PCC. It is likely CCL will be coerced to do feet washing. Privately, some clergy have expressed unhappiness with Herbert Tong’s heavy handedness. Why should the clergy follow the decision of a man who is leaving his job in two weeks while they upset the PCC they have been working with for so long? It is unclear how many churches will do feet washing this Sunday. Perhaps the Commissary wrote “may” but he meant it as a “must”.
Where is the involvement of the lay people in feet washing? It was all hatched by Bishop Moses Tay and Herbert Tong with zero input from the laity. If they are serious about healing wounds and closing the divide, wouldn’t it be wise for both sides to organise this and come forth with a joint statement?
4. BAV Back in Town?
There are reported sightings of BAV in Kota Kinabalu. Until there’s photographic evidence, this blog cannot confirm this news. An Anglican member pointed out, “How sad it is that a Bishop has to hole up like a fugitive.”
5. Last Minute Plea
Sensing the massive rejection of the feet washing ceremony, its architect Bishop Moses Tay, met with James Chhoa and Rev. Clarence Fun last night urging them to attend the ceremony. The duo rejected overtures of the former Archbishop. While BMT told James and Clarence to stand on God’s side, the duo retorted BMT was taking the Lord’s name in vain when the ceremony starts with proclaiming a lie from Herbert Tong.
Here is an interesting historical fact. The last time BMT initiated feet washing in Singapore, he ended up resigning as a large section of the clergy threatened to resign en bloc. Will this round of feet washing result in another Bishop resigning? We’ll wait and see.
Read this in Bahasa Malaysia.
THIS UPDATED ARTICLE SHOWS THE GRAVE IMPLICATION OF THE SPECIAL HOLY COMMUNION SERVICE TO BE CALLED 19-21 JULY.
It’s been almost five months since Bishop Albert Vun was relieved of his duties under the guise of “sabbatical”. Herbert Tong was appointed the Commissary and Bishop Moses Tey the “facilitator” to find “the way forward” in this protracted crisis. So what is next? A special Holy Communion service will be held around Sabah to bring reconciliation and closure in this crisis, according to an email from the Commissary.
As reported in the previous post, Herbert Tong singled out the Youth Camps for praise with no mention of the death of Alinah Mawah which many blame the Diocese for being a negligent organizer.
Let’s examine the 3 key elements of this special service:
#1 The Welcome Note
In Archbishop Bolly Lapok’s Advent Letter sent in December 2012, he revealed our Stand Comm passed a resolution to have an external audit firm to re-audit the disputed 2010-2011 Diocesan account. In the last Standing Committee meeting in May, the Treasurer, Michael Tong, reported an audit firm would take up the Diocesan account for 2012-2013, and he would follow up if the same firm would take up the 2010-2011 accounts as well. In short, the 2010-2011 accounts was not re-audited yet as of mid May.
How did Herbert Tong reach the conclusion no money is lost and there was no misappropriation of fund? Would Mr. Tong care to enlighten us how he reached this conclusion? The Commissary’s statement contradicts and disputes the Honorary Auditor’s finding. Unless Herbert Tong can back his statement with professional findings and facts, the Commissary had spoken irresponsibly.
The implication of this statement is FAR REACHING. Being proclaimed at a Holy Communion Service, means the church is making an unsubstantiated statement in the presence of our Lord Jesus. This statement exonerates BAV of all financial improprieties. Why? I can only speculate it is to path the way to re-instate him into active ministry as the Bishop of Sabah again.
#2 Feet Washing Ceremony
My brothers and sisters feet washing is not a sacrament instituted by Jesus. The Eucharist and baptism are. I hope none of us are misled into thinking we have rediscovered a missing sacrament.
What is feet washing? What does it mean? Jesus shows his disciples being a leader means laying down of ego and position to fulfill the mandate of God. God’s benchmark for good leadership is different from that of the world. In His kingdom, leadership means servanthood, humility and love; in the world, leadership means being bosses, stature and power. When Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, Jesus said this, “If I do not wash you [Peter’s feet], you have no share with me.” John 13:8. Jesus is saying unless you are willing to love, serve and be humble as I am, you will have no part of my values and kingdom. Love for God transcends position, even to the point of taking up the lowest of positions. Our Diocesan leadership is introducing feet washing to patch up and heal a deep wound in our Diocese. Is this taking the scriptural account of feet washing out of context? Is this application accurate?
#3 Special Holy Communion Service
What is the point of this “Special Holy Communion Service”? It is to close the crisis by declaring, “No money is lost. It is all a misinterpretation of the accounts. Let’s reconcile and move forward.” Do you share this stand?
The most SERIOUS part of this service is the Holy Communion. The Bible teaches us the Lord is present when we break bread and drink the wine. Let’s look at this example, a marriage is damaged because of infidelity. The husband had been cheating on the wife. The counselor suggested a reconciliation and marriage renewal service by celebrating the Holy Communion. At the beginning of the service, the husband lied by saying, “I had not cheated my wife, it was all a misunderstanding. We will work on our communication and rebuild our marriage.” The couple then proceeded to partake in the Holy Communion.
Is this a real reconciliation? Is this treating the Holy Communion in a worthily manner? Can human relationship be renewed in this manner? Be careful we do not profane God’s holy sacrement with sins and lies.
1 Corinthians 11: 27 warns us, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
What the Diocese need is very simple. Re-audit the accounts, revamp the constitution, and convene the Ecclesiastical Court. Do all these and confidence is restored and healing will begin. Anything less than that is hypocrisy, a great pretension, a farce and big waste of time.
Download the entire letter from Herbert Tong.
My dear friends,
Thank you very much for your most respectful, gracious, insightful and well-balanced replies to my letter. I appreciated very much your interaction, and would like to listen more to you. I would like to comment on a few things.
You will notice there are no names in my letter. So I am not criticizing anyone in particular, especially BAV. I am merely pointing out in response to an earlier comment which prompted me to write in the first place, that to a certain extent the situation we find ourselves in now has a great deal to do with the subtle emergence of false teaching in our diocese. Of course it is linked also with the inevitable global age in which we live. Thank you to “alternative” for pointing this out “we need to consistently update according to modernization”. Agreed, but the message remains the same, is Jesus-centred, and the call is always to live under HIS Lordship. After listening to a sermon on Sunday, ask the question “where was Jesus in that sermon?”” Jesus is the centre of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. So he is also the centre, the finale, the main reference point, in every sermon. If the sermon is merely ethical, moral, or theological, and Jesus is not central, as I used to tell my students at STS, I could have heard the same thing in the mosque. We need to insist on Jesus-centred sermons.
To call Jesus LORD, is to live radically different from the world. The sermon on the Mount helps us understand this. When we look honestly at our lives, how different is our life from our non-Christians (not-yet Christians) around us, eg. there is nothing wrong with wealth, but what is our attitude to riches? Jesus called the poor blessed, and pointed out how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Hence, prosperity gospel is completely contrary to Jesus’ teaching. I’m looking forward to the exposition of this heresy on the future blog.
Thank you to OSAnon for clarifying the difference between “worldly management systems” and “world management systems”. That was right and helpful. There is so much that is helpful from secular research, and we benefit to put it to good use. After all, all wisdom comes from the fount of Wisdom, even if it is not acknowledged as such. (James 1:5) The difference for a Christian is that he gives all glory to God and not to man.
Finally thank you to “worshipper” who rightly points out the early copying of the west in singing western hymns and so on. One has only to look at our liturgy to see the quaint English customs we still observe. eg. clergy swear allegiance to the “lord Bishop” of Sabah. This is from England where there was as steep a hierarchy as in Chinese culture. Those on a higher level were called “lord” (tuan), but Jesus pointed out it will not be so among his disciples. Likewise bowing to the altar is a hang-over from the doctrine of transubstantiation, where it was believed a real change took place in the bread and wine to become the actual body and blood of Christ. Since the body of Christ is now on the altar one bows. But the reformation rejected this teaching. The Anglican church is part of the reformation tradition, and so Anglicans should not bow to the altar. Would that all confirmees could study some church history
From a missiological perspective, missionary recipient churches usually follow the beliefs and practices of the sending church as they are not encouraged to think through what could be their own expression of faith. So we older ones have come to love the old hymns. Nothing wrong with that. But like children growing up, there comes a time to realize one’s own identity and not be just a stereotype of the parents. So I believe it is so too in the church. Compare the church in Africa with its distinctly different music and African dance. But I believe in Malaysia, we have not developed our Malaysian distinctive and are seen as foreign. Some would like us to stay “foreign” of course. This is their advantage but to our disadvantage!
None of my students are Christian. They have a beautiful dance, clothes, and language. Were there ever to be a gathering of believers, I would talk to them about “how” to express worship to the true and living God. I would certainly include the dance, the songs, and the language. Worshipper asks “how can Sabahan and Malaysians express our worship in our own way?” A good question! I think you “worshipper” can answer this better than me, but let me share one or two things I have tried which brought deep meaning to the worshippers.
1. Once I worked with a congregation that couldn’t sing. I asked them how did they sing at their gatherings? I asked them to put Christian words to their songs and bring their own instruments. Wow, they could sing after all. Long ago I spoke at a women’s conference. We had a singing competition. Most did the predicable thing, but one small group of illiterate women from a remote kampung sang a beautiful song about Jesus’s death for our salvation in the tune used to swing the baby in the sarung. You could have heard a pin drop. No one taught them how to do it. They did it out of a heart filled with gratitude to God for His great love in sending Jesus. . I remember in the 70’s when the revival began in the primary school, we had a scripture class. We began with worship. The children filled with the spirit sang the most beautiful songs of worship in their mother tongue. Look how congregations in the interior come alive when hymns are danced and sung to the sumazau music.
2. I have dramatized the Bible readings. Instead of the usual badly-read monologues from the reading desk which go over the heads of the half asleep congregations, we used dialogue and drama. Likewise where there was a translation of the Scriptures into the majority group language in the congregation, one of the lessons was read in that language. Pantuns and poetry were used.
3. Testimonies can be given. When did we last hear an excited new believer tell how Jesus had changed their life? How about a sermon given occasionally in the form of a interview, debate, or a symposium?
Look at the television. What sort of things do people like? how do they express themselves? We can only hope for change as the laity speak out, and say what they want. It is wrong to shut up the people of God in the freezer and only allow the paid staff to perform. As in the seventies, the frozen laity need to de-thaw. To ban their involvement is to deny them expression of their gifts which are given to every member of the congregation. I have lots of examples on this, but shall reserve them for another time. The people of God together should engage in dialogue about these issues for the sake of a better future.
There is a competition and obsession amongst pastors to build the mega churches. It may come from different denominations but the rhetoric is the same and it goes like this. “Half the urban population is under 30. They are swarmed by declining moral values, fast paced lifestyle and incredible demands of their time and priorities. To reach out to the next generation, we are building a 3000-seater church, equipped with media center, sports facilities, a training center. Let us sow into the next generation. Let’s give our best to honor God.”
Let us examine the obsession with building mega churches and lavish furnishing in the name of glorifying God. Let us put in biblical perspective. Where did this idea stem from?
It was King David who first thought of building a grand building for God, albeit in my opinion a conceited one despite his good intention. This is what David said:
2 Sam 7.1 Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.”
However, this is what the LORD said:
2Sam 7:5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.
It is clear The LORD has no desire or idea to have a “mega” building because it cannot add to His glory nor does it add to His enjoyment or satisfaction, for God is in Perfect existence. How can a building made by the created bring glory to the Creator? God eventually “ALLOWED” the building of the temple as a condescension to human needs and desire for a visible dwelling place for God. The proof is that God “ALLOWED” the temple to be destroyed by the Babylonians, and even the second temple built by Herod was destroyed by the Romans. The prophets and Jesus foretold the destruction. If these earthly monuments can in anywhere enhance or bring glory to God would He “ALLOWED” them to be destroyed? Just look at the incredibly beautiful and expensive churches in Europe and around the world, a large number of which have only a few worshipers, are they glorifying God or “mock” God because of the lack of worshipers? One very good example is the Methodist Central Hall in Birmingham, which was converted to a night club in 1991…I have been there, it saddens me to the core. It is a magnificent building, but does it glorify God or “mock” God?
Did the leaders and people who built those building not have zeal and passion? Were they not sold out for God and wanting only to glorify God? Did the people not give sacrificially and enthusiastically for the building? Were the people not absolutely sure that the building will serve the people and expand the Kingdom of God? Were they not thinking of the future generation when they built such a huge building? The answer all these questions is YES!But what a WASTE! How many lives could be touched, reached and helped with their sacrifice.
BAV and his like minded people is thinking exactly the same today! BAV argument goes like this: the buildings and facilities serve the people, I am passionate about loving and serving the people, so I must be passionate and committed to “serve” the building that serve the people. We must give sacrificially and invest sacrificially in building to serve the present and future generations, our children and youth. Sounds logical, sounds passionate and full of zeal, sounds like that is the only thing we should do, sounds charismatic and a man of faith and vision, sounds like a clarion call of God, sounds like trumpet and shofar. Is it? To me it sounds like the voice of SATAN all over again!
People of God, we need buildings not monuments, we need facilities not concert hall, we need transportation not luxury travel, we need office and communication equipments not the latest from Samsung or Apple, we need salary not profit sharing (bonus is profit sharing), we need pastors and friends not CEO (chief executive officer), COO (chief operating officer) or manager.
People who question the wisdom of building an expensive house of worship is often refuted with the story of Mary breaking the alabaster jar, pouring all the perfume on Jesus’ feet and washing it with her tears and hair. Judas pointed out the perfume, which is worth a year’s wages, could have been sold and given to the poor. “For God, nothing is too expensive,” the fundraising clergy would argue. Does God dwell in expensive buildings? The more lavish the building, the more it pleases God? If this were true, then God must detest house churches in China and church with mud floors in our Sabah interior!
The church and the people of God need to REFOCUS! Jesus said, (Luke 11:34) Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Our eyes need to focus on the Lord Jesus, the source of light, so that the body of Christ, the church, may have light!
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
God desires to dwell in men and women who are humble, contrite in spirit and trembles at his Word–not in marbles, bricks, stones and concrete. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are we fit for his dwelling?