Many are shocked to see how Bishop Albert Vun has withered by cancer. Many are more shocked the Bishop despite his worsening condition is not taking medical leave to get the appropriate rest he needs, to spend time more time with his loved ones and to tend to all his final affairs in this world. As the Bishop soldiers on, the unsuspecting ones see this as an heroic act of service. Yet we must probe this further. Is serving God the most important thing in life? Does following Christ till the end means we hold on to our official office till the final breathe?
The two greatest commandments are “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”. The second is to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. So serving God is not the most important thing, loving Him and our neighbours is.
If we love God, we will serve Him. If we serve Him, does it automatically mean we love him?
In Matthew 7:21-23 the Bible warns that many on the day of reckoning will call Him, “Lord, Lord” but Jesus will say, “I do not know you.” Jesus warns us that many will recite their ministerial accomplishments to Him on that day but Jesus will not accept them. How can someone who serve God and accomplished so much in the name of God be rejected by Christ?
Perhaps the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-18) can help us understand. The older brother tells his father that though he has slaved for him, he never got a party to celebrate with his friends. Note he sees himself as a slave, not a son of the rich father. He works hard and adheres to a strict code of conduct and excellence, perhaps to enhance his self-worth, or perhaps to gain his father’s attention. Perhaps his great management or entrepreneurial skills have brought higher yields than all neighbouring farmlands. Perhaps he expands the livestock so much that he now runs the largest herd of sheep in the area. Perhaps he builds the grandest building in town. Yet whatever he has accomplished, he still sees himself as a slave. Not a son.
Jesus teaches us through this story that working hard for God, achieving for God, excelling for God, does not make us God’s son. If we read this together with Matthew 7:21-23, we should be prompted to take care of our relationship with God and our neighbours. Still the question that begs for an answer remains, “Who is a child of God?”
Here is what we can learn from the story of the prodigal son:
The prodigal returns to his father house, confessed he has sinned and received the embrace of the father. The older son has never left the father’s house, does not recognise his wretchedness, sees himself as a slave not son. Who lives as a son? The younger or older brother? In reality, the father regards both as sons even though one thinks he is a slave and the other sees himself as unworthy.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, we are all recipient of eternal life as a gift from God. God has made us worthy by forgiving our sin in Christ Jesus. It is father’s grace that he continues to regard both as sons despite their failings.
2. A Son has Nothing to Prove
The younger son has nothing good to show for, the older brags about his effort and track record. Yet that very evening, the younger son, not his older sibling, parties and celebrates with his father. It isn’t human accomplishment that brought the arms of the father around the son, it is an honest exasperation, “Father I have sinned…I am not worthy.” A son has nothing to prove, only the humility to receive forgiveness. The older son who has so much to prove, sees himself not as a son, but a slave.
The worth of a son is not determined by what he does or fails to do. His is worthy simply because he is the son. Grace alone. Christ alone.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a series of stories of redemption: the lost sheep, lost coin, and the grand finale, the lost son. The Father looks for the lost relentlessly and celebrates when the lost is found. To be God’s children, we must share God’s heart for the lost. With whom do we identify ourselves with in this story? If the prodigal son return will we be able to join the celebration with our Father?
Whether it is the son who squandered away half the family’s fortune, or the one who works diligently, both are the Father’s sons. What the sons do or don’t do, does not change the fact the father regards them as sons. In the heat of the moment, in our deepest pain and frustration, those whom we disagree with becomes acronyms, enemies or cronies. Have we forgotten we are all God’s children?
When we see the recent picture of Bishop Albert Vun, what do we see? Perhaps a man whose identity is so embedded in the office and position he holds that without them, he isn’t sure who he is; a man afraid of walking into the unknown so he holds tightly to what he knows; a man who forgets he is God’s son, not a slave.
My brothers and sisters, let us pray for this brother to return, that the love of God will drive away all the fear-driven performances, approval-seeking work. Let us all bring our filthy rags to our father, let Him embraces us, let Him puts His ring of sonship and daughtership on our fingers. Let us prepare our hearts so we can to join our Father to celebrate when our brother returns.
Clergy from around Sabah converged in Kota Kinabalu the last few days for the collation Canons on Sunday, followed by a clergy conference. Here are the summary of what transpired.
More Canons than Stalls
According to the constitution, there are six Canon stalls in the Cathedral. However we have Paul Lau, Lindis Singkung, Arun Kuak, Musa Ambai, Yong Thiam Choi, George Kovoor and the newly collated Lin Khee Vun & John Shuller, making it a total of eight Canons while we only have six Canon stalls. There is no provision in our constitution for a Canon Missioner. This is another example of BAV’s high-handed leadership and blatant disregard for order and discipline.
Legality aside, the role of Canons within the Cathedral Chapter is for the edification of worship life on the Cathedral. It is unclear how Jon Shuller and George Kovoor, who has no relation with the Diocese prior to their collation and who live thousands of miles away from us, contribute to that.
BAV is Still Bitter
With the Bishop missing most of the clergy conference, the new de facto leader and BAV’s heir apparent Bishop John Yeo led most of conference. When BAV finally made it to one of the sessions, he wasted no time to lambast “those who backstabbed him” by signing a petition to remove him to the House of Bishops.
The New Canon Fired 1st Salvo
Newly collacted Canon Missioner, Jon Shuller, dropped the bomb when he led a devotion. He said BAV was ill and “not his right mind” in reference to BAV’s frequent outbursts. Participants noted Bishop John Yeo looked stunned and flabbergasted by Shuller’s remark.
BJY Laying Down the Law
Bishop John Yeo warned young clergy about “what they read and listen to”. Also told them not to be “brainwashed” and “misled”. It is clear the resignation of Rev. Eric Ling rocked the clergy to the core. When one of their peers, seemingly the blue-eyed boy of BAV and protoge of BJY left the Diocese in a huff, questions are asked. BAV and BJY claimed Rev. Ling wanted to leave before Christmas, a story few bought, but never addressed the reasons for why this promising priest’s sudden resignation.
Meanwhile, a church member asked Rev. Eric Ling pointblank why he resigned. He replied the Bishops were pressuring his wife, Phoebe to be the auditor of the Diocesan accounts. Anyone in doubt can certainly contact Rev. Eric Ling directly on Facebook to ascertain this fact.
Pictures circulating on social media show Bishop Albert Vun has physically deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks. While recent development points to an unrepentant BAV, yet the heart of our Father in heaven is for everyone to come running back to him. Continue to pray for repentance and restoration. Pray also in our frustration, bitterness and hatred does not take root in our hearts.
This is a rebuttal to Bishop Albert Vun’s Christmas message. We will point out areas where the Bible is twisted out of context to suit his agenda, theological errors committed and lies repeated.
1. Political Mileage from the Gospel
“The Gospel” was presented with a twist for political mileage. After quoting John 1:12, BAV suddenly slips in a comment about enemies working against God’s salvation plan by quoting John 1.10-11 out of context. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” This passage states the facts and context in which Jesus entered the world; there is nothing about enemies. Here lies BAV’s obsession with non-existent enemies whom he equates as the enemies of the Gospel. The real enemy to the Gospel in our crisis is BAV’s worldly policies and heretical teachings, not the Christians who stood steadfastly against them.
AV claims that celebration of Christmas is to promote God’s will and purpose, yet again he slips in about “not everyone” is doing it, so we are wondering who does he has in mind? Another evidence of obsession with imaginary enemies perhaps?
2. Challenging the Authority
The members are not challenging Bishop Albert Vun’s authority. However, we are questioning his integrity and fitness to be a spiritual leader after seeing the management letter, his tyrannical streak as seen in the sacking, transfer and demotion of clergy, and the unbiblical teachings from his lips. There is also the damning PAC report which will soon see daylight. We are also challenging him in instances where he exceeded and abused his authority in the constitution of the Diocese.
BAV’s abuses are grave and they affect the worship life of the entire Diocese. Sunday attendance and total giving in the Diocese went down for the first time in 10 years. Even during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, Sunday collection grew year to year. Yet BAV insisted it was the work of a small group of online anonymous dissidents. We questioned BAV face to face during the dialogue at All Saints Cathedral, Good Shepherd and St. Patrick’s Church. Thousands of us signed a petition to the House of Bishop. There are the five complainants and ten delegates. How are we anonymous?
3. What is Spiritual Authority
The term “spiritual authority” is used by BAV as if it is some sort of supernatural authority bestowed upon him that no man can question. What is spiritual authority? The passage often referred to is Matthew 16:15-19:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
It is an authority given by Jesus to those who accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Through our relationship with Jesus, we have the authority to cast out demons, bring light to darkness, bind the broken, heal the sick, free the captives and proclaim the Gospel. Nowhere in the Bible is spiritual authority used to subjugate and control another person.
No one possesses “spiritual authority” over another person, ONLY GOD DOES. A leader may have pastoral oversight provided a person or a congregation voluntarily allows the leader to have such oversight. A leader may have administrative authority when it is bestowed by the constitution of a church, but how do you bestow “spiritual authority”? It is intangible, it cannot be earned and it certainly does not come with position, only in a relationship.
Jesus has all the power at his disposal, yet when He wants to enter our hearts, He stands at the door and knock. Why knock when He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords? Can’t he just budge in? He can, but He will not because He loves us, and love is neither manipulative nor controlling. So if Christ our Saviour would stand at the door and knock, who is Bishop Albert Vun to charge in and control how we should think, feel and live?
4. BAV is Moses, Nehemiah & Jesus?
BAV equated himself to Moses, Nehemiah and Jesus. Aaron and Miriam spoke ill of Moses because of his monopoly of government (has God spoken only through Moses?), not the mismanagement of it. Sanballat and Tobiah spread untrue reports about Nehemiah to disrupt the rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus was wrongly sentenced to death. BAV highlighted how Jesus was gloated by his persecutors who said He was “stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted”. Perhaps a direct reference to his current illness?
The Lord vindicated Moses (the meekest man on earth), Nehemiah and Jesus because the accusations against these leaders were FALSE.
Is it true BAV bought a condominium in Bangkok without Standing Committee’s prior approval?
Is it true BAV and Dean Chak Sen Fen influenced All Saints Cathedral’s AGM by stoking racial sentiments, pitting one congregation against another?
If BAV is wrongly accused, God will vindicate him. If he is not, yet continues to lie, I dread to think of the consequence.
5. Hero of ADOS
BAV finally acknowledges the declining attendance and giving of the churches. However, just as Adam blames Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, so BAV blames everyone else except himself for the decline. Since the church is also a victim in this crisis, he is now the hero who will set things right again. BAV claims that he is training young people to be the next generation of leaders through his Anglican Training Institute (ATI). However, He has omitted the terrifying fact that as of December 2013, Sabah Diocese is the only Diocese in the Province of South East Asia and possibly the world who DO NOT have ONE SINGLE student in a recognised or accredited seminary. It means that if we were to sent a student today, we will only see a trained pastor coming back with a bachelor degree in theology in 2018.
BAV started ATI unilaterally and withdrew membership from all theological seminaries in the region. ATI is manned by “unqualified” teachers, taught by some “qualified” visiting lecturers, offering an unaccredited certificate. Is that what BAV calls training of the next generation of leaders? This is the ONE thing that the Diocese should be TERRIFIED!
6. Tithes, Offering and Lay Readers
“It is required for lay readers to submit to the authority of the clergy,” says BAV, and then he invokes “canonical obedience” to the Bishop. In BAV’s mind, the laity must say yes to the Bishop and clergy. Canonical obedience is submission to the Bishop on all matters lawful and true. When BAV acts unlawfully and lies to the congregation, these sins must be confronted, not swept under the carpet or blinded by “canonical obedience”.
BAV takes Philippians 2:1-2 out of context. He implied being “in one spirit” with the leadership as a criteria to serve together in ministry. Is this what Paul means? Let’s read verse 3-8 as well:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Clearly, BAV loves quoting “being like-minded” as a mean to get members to tow the line but conveniently leaves out “do nothing out of selfish ambition”, “in humility value others above yourselves”, “taking the very nature of a servant”, “did not consider equality with God”, “humbled himself”.
BAV alleged that some lay readers are not tithing and encouraging others not to tithe as well. Tithing is giving unto the Lord. Unless BAV redefines tithing as giving unto the Anglican Diocese of Sabah, all lay readers ARE tithing faithful as taught by the Scriptures. Seminaries, mission organisations, rural churches have been recipients of their tithes. The Bishop has no business to dictating where we send our cheques.
7. Parting Shots
AV then went on about his life long preoccupation–building and buying land. Absent is any mention of building relationship or building the people of God as followers of Jesus, or the economic hardship that our brothers and sisters are facing in 2014. Instead, there is a series of “let us”, which invariably means “whatever I decide, you just follow.” Anything else means you are the “enemies”.
To finally rub everything in, BAV “send you my blessing as your bishop.” He cannot resist reminding you that “I AM THE BISHOP”.
There, you have it, an all inspiring Christmas message from a narcissist obsessed with his “imaginary” enemies. Its all about himself, his problems, his enemies, his plans, his efforts, his zeal, his preoccupation, his visions.
Most importantly, can anyone find where Jesus is in BAV’s Christmas message?
Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the love of God, but for Bishop Albert Vun it is a time to spew hate, repeat his lies, twist the Scriptures, and threaten the lay leadership through his Christmas message. This blog refrained from publishing his narcissistic message over Christmas because it did not deserve any more publicity than it already got via the Diocesan Bulletin distributed on Christmas day. Here is the message:
On the same page, Bishop Albert Vun issued an ultimatum to lay readers who do not “submit to the authority and leadership of the clergy” to cease to serve as Lay Readers. He also accused some leaders of not giving their tithes and encouraging others to do the same. That sums up the Christmas message from the Bishop.
This blog will publish a rebuttal to BAV’s message in due time.
The following is a letter from the five complainants and ten delegates.
2nd September was Bishop Albert Vun first day back on the job upon his return from sabbatical leave. That very day he had a meeting with Ps. Margaret Chong in which she was given advanced warning of her impending transfer away from St Paul’s Ranau on a strictly confidential basis. Ps. Margaret’s witness that BAV had lied before a large audience in All Saints Cathedral had evidently rankled him and had been gnawing on his mind while on sabbatical. This act of moving Ps. Margaret from Ranau would very clearly have huge collateral damage on St Paul’s Church which she had built up selflessly over her years of service there. Personal vengeance is one thing but allowing it to destroy churches cannot be acceptable for a Bishop.
At this stage it was not known that BAV was suffering a terminal illness which may have compromised his judgment even then. Since September BAV appears to have been working hard on some sort of agenda. The most evident outcome of this has been clergy postings which for the most part appear terribly unhelpful to both churches and clergy. The culminating action by BAV to date has been the removal of Rev. Moses Chin’s archdeaconship effective at minimal notice from 1st December. This has produced an incredulous but immediate and robust lay response, especially from Sandakan where Rev. Moses is particularly loved and valued.
This brings seriously into question BAV’s state of mind and whether he will keep exacting personal revenge on people and congregations without regard for the far reaching damage to the Diocese as a whole and the Anglican Church in general.
A bishop is the leader of their Diocese and so there is a principle that bishops do not meddle in the affairs of other bishops. It is therefore natural that the HoB would want to give time to let the sabbatical counseling that BAV received do its job in the hope that he may have overcome his bitterness and drawn near to God. Accordingly, there is a presumption that the HoB does not know too much about what is going on in Sabah.
With this understanding, the Group of 10+5 have written to the HoB to give them a listing of publicly known happenings in the Diocese since the beginning of September. This is just a list for them to make their own conclusions and judge whether or not they need to take closer interest.
The letter ends with two observations:
- Whilst we may have thought that the period before September was the lowest point in the history of the Diocese, matters have been deteriorating at a quickening pace ever since.
- BAV is so gripped with bitterness that, so long as he is functioning as Bishop, there can be no peace. As a dying man he needs to be given the chance to let go, to be close to his family and to reconcile with God. Only in this way can he die in peace and his family can let him go in peace. He needs the chance of a good ending. This is compassion.
This is a summary of what has been written to the HoB. Given to you so that you may have the comfort of knowing that efforts continue in all possible ways to bring rightness, integrity and peace back into our church. We yearn with all our hearts for the prospect of once again being able to go to church with a skip in our step in the expectancy of a deep corporate worship experience in which we draw near to God and He draws near to us in fellowship with each other. We hope once again to receive godly instruction in Christian living and to dismantle the divisions in our Church. We hope for real reconciliation not just a pretense for the sake of moving on.
This sort of recovery will take time and perseverance and in this Advent season we are reminded never to lose hope. God loves us because otherwise He would not have sent Jesus to provide for our salvation. Bitterness does no one any good and so in this Christmas season we need to be patient and open more than ever in seeing God work out His good plan. In the meantime, we will continue to do what we can in obedience to God’s will for us in assisting resolution of the crisis.
Archbishop Bolly has gratefully acknowledged the letter, appreciates the information given and expresses deep concern that, instead of BAV’s illness being a catalyst for reconciliation, the Sabah crisis has deepened.
Wishing you all and your families, both far and near, a very happy Christmas and a very blessed 2014.
Rev. Eric Ling, the priest in-charge of Good Samaritan Church, tendered his resignation on Monday. The shocking news came as Bishop Albert Vun wanted to install him, along with several priests, as rectors of their respective parishes. It is a shock because Rev. Eric Ling, from Labuan, is a protege of Bishop John Yeo and a blue-eyed boy of BAV. At the height of the crisis, Rev. Ling once publicly said that if the Bishop were wrong he would be the first to resign.
Ling’s wife, Phoebe, an accountant from Perth, was being lined up by Bishop John Yeo as the auditor to replaced Chu Vun Henn at St. Patrick’s Church when Chu refused to bend accounting rules to suit BJY. That arrangement fell through when Phoebe, sensibly turned down BJY. It is unclear if this incident has anything to do with Ling’s resignation.
BAV summoned the PCC members of Good Samaritan Church to the Bishop’s residence on Tuesday night and told them Ling ceased to be the priest in-charge of the church the moment he accepted the resignation. Rev. Sim Ka Seng takes over from Rev. Ling on Wednesday. Some members reported Ling went away to Singapore and would return to a farewell party on Dec 18. Rev. Ling will not be preaching this Sunday. It is unclear where Ling’s future plans lay, but many believe the young couple will move to Perth where Phoebe, an Australian permanent resident, used to work at.
From Pastor Margaret Chong, Archdeacon Moses Chin and Rev. Eric Ling, we see BAV acts with impunity and little regard for the dignity of the men and woman serving the Lord. Whether it is a transfer, a termination or resignation, the clergy involved were treated with little compassion, respect or professionalism.
The hundreds of smiling pictures posted on the Diocesan Facebook page cannot cover up the the rot and stench rising within the Diocese. BAV has not been to the Diocesan office at all, dictating instructions to his personal assistant who makes daily trips to the Bishop’s residence. Clearly, he is in no condition to lead the Diocese yet he wraps his arms onto the seat of power instead of handing over the Diocese to more able bodies and sounder minds.
Many of us are tempted to think “the crisis is over now God has taken charge”. It is understandable given the latest development and the fatigue this prolonged crisis brought us. There is no harm to take a breather, but is it wise to assume the house of God is properly restored now?
Far from it. The church continues to suffer as Bishop Albert Vun acts with impunity even in his final days. The demotion of qualified senior clergy, the promotion of inexperienced and untested young priests into lofty positions, the continuos denial of truth, the election of a godly leader to be the next Bishop of Sabah, the upcoming court case all requires our prayers. Yes, we have seen glimpse of light but night is not over and we must be careful not to allow darkness to snuff out the flickering flame.
On that note, I’m please to announce the prayer meeting this month will again be held at the STS Chapel at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday 11th December.
After a year of great tribulation in our church which has been so distressing, it will be good to end the year on a lighter note, even though our Anglican Sabah Diocese continues to face immense challenges. Accordingly, as this prayer meeting will be the last such meeting this year and many will be heading off for Christmas elsewhere with their loved ones, it is planned to have a period of fellowship following the meeting during which light refreshments will be served.
Thank you and God bless.
The following is a letter from the Standing Committee published in St. Patrick’s Church bulletin last Sunday.
Dear Dean, Rector, Priest-in-charge, Priest/PCCs & church members,
The Standing Committee wishes to express its profound gratitude to all of you for your love and concern expressed in so many ways to Bishop Datuk Albert Vun and his family. Together, we share Bishop Albert’s trust in the Lord and urge everyone to continue to uphold Bishop Albert and his family in prayer as (in Bishop Albert own words) he is “completely dependent on Him for a miraculous healing” from pancreatic cancer.
In response to many queries received from our church member, the Standing Committee wishes to clarify that some years ago the Diocese took a deliberate decision not to take up medical insurance for our clergy and pastors after having done an in-depth study on the matter. The existing policy of the Diocese on medical claims by any of our ministry staff is for the Diocese to pay 50% of the medical claims while the remaining 50% shall be borne by the local parish where he/she is at the material time posted.
In the case of Bishop Albert, the Standing Committee has decided that Bishop Albert medical expenses, including related incidental expenses in seeking medical treatment, will be the responsibility of the Diocese. The Standing Committee has also decided to bear the traveling expenses in seeking medical treatment, will be the responsibility of the Diocese. The Standing Committee has also decided to bear the traveling expenses of Datin Mary Vun (or her alternate) in accompanying Bishop Albert for medical treatment overseas, where and when necessary.
The Standing Committee is overwhelmed with so much generosity, kindness and love from both near and far expressed to Bishop Albert and his family. Notwithstanding the Diocese’s undertaking to bear Bishop Albert’s medical expenses, churches and individuals who still feel the need to offer financial assistance for Bishop Albert’s medical expenses may do so through your local churches, and this we will let the local priest in charge to take the initiative.
Proceeds collected may be sent to the Diocesan office by cheque issued in the name of “Diocese of Sabah” with the wordings “Diocesan Medical Fund” written at the back of the cheque and it is from this fund that Bishop Albert’s medical expenses will be drawn from.
Thank you. Let us continue to serve and trust the Lord.
Yours in Christ,
Diocesan Standing Committee
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.
Read this in BM.
Bishop Albert Vun abrupt transfer of Pastor Margaret Chong from Ranau to Sandakan prompted protests from St. Paul’s Church, with the PCC resigning en bloc and demanding the Bishop to apologise for scolding and humiliating them at a meeting last Friday.
Pastor Margaret Chong’s transfer to Sandakan with Canon Lidis heading the opposite direction was first mentioned during the clergy conference on 2-3 September. BAV instructed Margaret not to inform the PCC because it was not finalised. On 12 September when Philip Lo visited St Paul’s, he instructed the PCC to rent a house for Canon Lidis.
“This was how St. Paul’s PCC found out Pastor Margaret would be transferred. Pastor Margaret never said a word about this. We were stunned to learn about it through Philip Lo,” said Low Gee Huat who had been serving in the PCC for over 20 years.
The PCC was shellshocked because St. Paul’s had been planning to build a multipurpose hall in Kundasang and a new staff quarters. “We have been raising money for almost six years since Pastor Margaret first arrived here. We’ve got RM400,000. almost enough to complete everything and we are about to start construction, and the Bishop transfers away Pastor Margaret,” said Low.
St. Paul’s has a small but thriving Chinese congregation. Louis Yap, who served for 17 years in the PCC, said it was in no small part thanks to Pastor Margaret’s hard work and ability to speak three languages. “With Pastor Margaret gone and Canon Lidis unable to minister in Chinese, I am not sure what will happen to the Chinese congregation,” said Yap. He also added 70% of the giving come from the Chinese congregation, and it is unwise and irresponsible to neglect the Chinese work.
Last Friday, at a meeting with Bishop Albert Vun in KK, the PCC petitioned for Pastor Margaret to stay in Ranau based on the facts given above. However, BAV told the six-person PCC since they had resigned, they had no say in the administration of the church. BAV also told the six men he would appoint a new PCC to replace them and would not stop them from serving or moving on to another church.
“What kind of a bishop is this? Instead of encouraging and strengthening us, he rubs salt to wounds and insinuates we should leave the Anglican church,” said Low. Louis Yap who was at the meeting said it was the first time in 17 years serving in the PCC he was scolded by a bishop. Both men testified BAV was so loud and furious that “his face changed shape”.
Bishop Albert Vun then accused St. Paul’s Church for “backstabbing him and twisting the knife on him”. He challenged them if they understood the 24-page dossier they signed and submitted by the 10 delegates to the House of Bishops last year. The six PCC members were puzzled. First, they did not sign the petition to the House of Bishops, only a petition against Philip Lo’s ordination. Secondly, what does the Diocesan crisis has to do with the local ministry in St. Paul’s Church?
“He was raging and getting very personal. Why is he scolding us for things we did not do?” Yap argued. While BAV raged, Low said he realised revenge was the real motive behind the transfer of Pastor Margaret Chong, not the wellbeing of St. Paul’s Church.
“After six months [sabbatical], Bishop Albert Vun has not changed one bit. He has become more bitter and vengeful,” said Low.
When the PCC returned to Ranau, Pastor Margaret coaxed them to withdraw their resignation to no avail. “If Bishop Albert Vun writes to us officially to ask us to stay on, personally delivers the letter to us and then apologise for humiliating and wrongly accusing us, then perhaps we would reconsider. Otherwise there is nothing to talk about,” said Low.
Most members of St. Paul’s PCC have served the church for more than 20 years. They gave their money, time and resources sacrificially to raise enough funds for the building projects. To be discarded just before these projects begin was heartbreaking.
“Since the Diocese wants to call all the shots, then let them handle the building projects. They made it clear they don’t need us anymore,” said Low. When asked if the PCC would continue to support the projects under the leadership Canon Lidis, Low said the PCC had nothing against Canon Lidis or his leadership. Yet when it comes to giving and contribution, he believes the church members will be “very cautious” after this rude awakening.
As for Pastor Margaret Chong who confronted the 3 bishops for lying, her transfer to Sandakan had been moved forward from 5 December to 15 October.
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.