IN HIS Episcopal Address, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon drew attention to his role as an educator in the (first) four years of his episcopacy. He observed that we live in a time of sweeping changes - foundational worldviews, values and social structures are being rapidly dismantled.
Cultural historian Mark Oppenheimer in his book, Knocking on Heaven's Door, has voiced his concern that the counter culture of the 1960s and 70s has significantly affected the religious denominations in America.
Some examples are the acceptance of a gay lifestyle in the Unitarian church in the 60s; the use of folk music in Catholic liturgy (though keeping doctrine intact); the development of Jewish havurot (small groups), like radical groups such as the Black Panthers; women's ordination in the Episcopal church; and the reactions against the Vietnam War in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In the aftermath, both liberal and conservative churches have been influenced, while American forms of Christianity have influenced many churches, including those in Singapore.
In times like these, the Bishop said, we need to discern what is happening all around us, and make it necessary for us to unmask and discover, in the language of Peter Berger, who our puppet masters are.
To help Methodists understand better, the Bishop's Office has been organising the Aldersgate Convention every year in May, an annual event that aims to bring together Methodists in Singapore in this liturgical and pedagogical gathering, and to help explore Wesleyan teachings and practices regarding Christian discipleship and scriptural holiness.
It aims to bring in some of the best speakers to help strengthen our connection and deepen our knowledge of and love for God. To date, such speakers as Dr Thomas Oden, Dr Ajith Fernando and Dr David Watson have come. In 2005, Dr William Abraham, Dr Geoffrey Wainwright and Dr Karen Tucker, three illustrious writers and speakers, will address the Aldersgate Convention - as we celebrate the 120th Anniversary of The Methodist Church in Singapore.
At the same time, the Bishop pointed to Methodist Message that carries not only news but also educational and inspiring articles which have been appreciated by many who have written in, not only locally, but overseas from Methodists and other denominations. The Bishop's column has been used as a teaching tool for which many have provided encouragement.
Other publications have also been used as teaching tools. The People Called Methodists was published to provide members and others with an introduction to The Methodist Church in Singapore, its history, heritage, beliefs, mission and organisation. To enhance its value, a companion study guide was also published for use by individuals and small groups.
Another book, Sparks of Grace, by Associate Professor Robbie Goh, was published to tell the story of Methodism in Asia, while a couple of Episcopal sermons, and a trimestral Episcopal Letter to pastors, church leaders and staff to help them reflect on issues related to the life, mission and ministry of the church, rounded off the educational initiatives of the episcopacy in the last quadrennium.
"There is a great need for spiritual discernment and teaching in the church in the context of the challenges that we face. This includes retaining a deep spiritual centre in the life and mission of the church," concluded Bishop Dr Solomon.
The Episcopal Address is
available from the
Bishop's Office. It can
also be accessed at
the MCS website,