The Ecumenical Study Group
The Ecumenical Study Group - Christian Federation of Malaysia (EXCO) and Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM – Heads of Churches) visit to Luther’s Sites and Vatican / Rome
This Ecumenical Study Tour was initiated by Bishop Aaron Yap with the support of the CFM EXCO and CCM Heads of Churches. We are so honoured because the Lutheran Church in Malaysia (LCM) is the main coordinator for this Ecumenical Study Group. LCM is blessed to have our Mission Partner in Germany, ELCB (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria) and its Mission Department – The Mission One World (MoW) and its head, the Rev. Thomas Paulsteiner – Head of the Department of Papua New Guinea / Pacific / East Asia Desk to coordinate and lead the “First Leg” of the study tour in Germany. The “Second Leg” of the study tour in Vatican/Rome was facilitated by the Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of the RC Diocese of Kuala Lumpur. However, Archbishop Julian Leow could not participate in the Tour at the last minute because his mother had a heart attack just a few days before the departure date. As such, Father George Harrison of the RC and Bishop Aaron Yap had to step in to lead this visit.
CCM was invited to plant a tree in the Luther Garden at Wittenberg in Germany. (The article below, with some additions and minor corrections by Bishop Aaron Yap, was written by Sister Carmelita Xavier of the Roman Catholic Church and published in the Herald Weekly in June 2019) KUALA LUMPUR : It was a day filled with anticipation as Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) & Christian of Federation Malaysia (CFM) EXCO came together for a Luther & Vatican Ecumenical StudyTrip 2019. This will be the first trip ever made together with the Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Salvation Army, Brethren, and AoG to witness the works of Martin Luther in Germany and the Catholic Church in Rome.
The participants of this study included Rt. Rev Dr. Ong Hwai Teik, Bishop of the Methodist Church, Rt. Rev Aaron Yap, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia, Rt Rev Danald Jute, Bishop of Anglican Church in Sarawak & Brunei, Rt Rev Datuk Melter Jiki Tais, Bishop of the Anglican Church in Sabah, The Most Reverend Datuk Ng Moon Hing, Anglican Archbishop of West Malaysia of the Anglican Church, Rev Dr Ezra Kok, President of the Chinese Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia, Major Lee Kong Yee of the Salvation Army, Mr Tan Kong Beng from the Brethren Assembly and Executive Secretary of CFM, Rev Fr George Harrison, Catholic Priest of the Church of the Visitation, Seremban and a member of the CFM, Arokiadass Anthonysamy, of the Catholic Church and Chairperson of the CFM Penang Chapter, Rev Andy Chi, NECF Sec-Gen, Rev Dr Tie King Tai, President of Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, Ms Rita Wong a Catholic Lawyer and member of the CFM Exco and Gopal Sundaram, a Methodist Lawyer who is a member of the CFM EXCO. Their spouses also accompanied them throughout this trip.
With all these experiences, one cannot help but hear what the leaders in the Lutheran & Catholic church have to say about the ecumenical lifestyle. The participants had a wonderful meeting with the Rev Gabriele Lipski of the Lutheran Church and two Augustinian Monks who organised joint services in the same church in Erfurt, Germany. It was a very enriching experience to hear their testimonies and challenges that they still face. But it stayed in the hearts of all those who were gathered there that nothing is impossible if all churches stand ecumenically united in wanting to work for the good of all. CFM also had an opportunity to meet the Presiding/Head-Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm at the ELCB Headquarters, Munich. Bishop Bedford shared the many changes that had taken place in Germany and how the Reformation had indeed struck a chord in the lives of the people today.
He pointed out that Ecumenism lifestyle is indeed an area that is deeply rooted in the German churches today and every effort is made to ensure that, despite the many challenges faced, the Church will persevere in walking the love of Christ in bringing them together. He reiterated that the Church must speak the richness of the traditions but not by putting down other denominations. It was indeed a fruitful session. Thereafter, lunch was served as The trip was a remarkable one as all our eyes were opened to many possibilities and efforts. As Tan Kong Beng, the Executive Secretary for CFM shared, “We were able to enjoy our study tour amidst much learning, self-reflection and personal transformation, fellowship and most importantly with laughter and The first half of the study tour provided an opportunity to see some of the sights and places of Germany where the Reformation took place. On numerous occasions, history came alive and it was enlightening to learn the conditions that led to the reformation movement which has changed the Christian world. However, it is also heart- warming to learn that despite the differences in theological interpretation, church traditions and various forms of persecution the church continues to stand strong and witness to t he saving power of Christ.
In Germany, the Participants were invited for a coffee session with Dr Annekathrin Preidel, the President of ELCB Synod and her husband, in Mission One World (MoW), the head of Department for Papua New Guinea, Asia/Pacific, Rev. Thomas Paulsteiner, the main local contact person and coordinator, who had been with us throughout the whole time in Germany. Dr Preidel was quick to introduce herself as a Lutheran who married a Catholic! With this opening, she had given an overview of her thoughts and direction the Synod is taking at this point of time. She further added that Churches in general must be on the Ecumenical journey together by living the unified Body of Christ. Many were moved by this session as the various church concerns were also shared.
In his testimony, Major Lee Kong Yee of Salvation Army, shared that the missionary spirit of the Lutheran Church in Bavaria, the rich heritage of the Reformation experience, the ecumenical service between the Catholic and Lutheran in Neuendettelsau, the ecumenical dialogue of the Vatican with the various Christian groups worldwide was heart-warming and positive. In Rome, the paintings, icons, sculptures and Basilicas were majestic and God-glorifying. One wonders how the people were able to put up such structures with the kind of technology that existed in the earlier centuries. The team also made a visit to Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Vatican. The team were given an inspiring report of the works of the council with the worldwide communions and denominations of the following traditions – the Orthodox Church, Methodist, Anglican, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists, Anabaptists and Mennonites, based on the successful
The Study Tour participants also had an opportunity to visit the Embassy of Malaysia to the Holy See to meet the newly appointed Ambassador, Mr Westmoreland Palon and his team. After an introduction and short meeting, the fellowship was then warmly accorded a Malaysian lunch. After lunch, Bishop Ong gathered the people and offered a prayer for His Excellency Westmoreland Palon. Mr. Gopal Sundaram shared that grassroots ecumenism in Bavaria was an eye opener for him. The Ecumenical Service in Neuendettelsau had made an impression in him. This service was run by the Lutheran & Catholic community with the priests from both the denominations. There was a time of Praise & Worship followed by a sharing of the Word by the Lutheran priest. It was then, followed by fellowship in the open field of a farm !.
In his testimony, Archbishop Ng Moon Hing shared, “It did not only show us beautiful sites and wonderful history of the early church leaders but definitely has enhanced our global perspective of sacrifice, obedience and faith in the Lord. This ecumenical study tour of Germany and the Vatican city have regenerated in me a fresh commitment to serve our Lord Jesus even more fervently with intentional transformation of self, family, community, society Mr. Arokiadass, from the Catholic Church and also the CFM Chairperson for Penang Chapter, shared that the study tour was indeed educational. He said that this study cleared up a lot of questions with regards to Martin Luther’s move and intentions in bringing forth the Reformation. The trip to Rome, he added, though this was his 2nd trip, convicted him of the stand of the Catholic Church in the past and present and all that she did to enforce the enormous presence of God through rich traditions that was so prevalent in the various Basilicas, during the medieval days.
All in all, this has been an eye opener for all those who participated in this study. This tour has indeed opened a whole new world of love and understanding amongst the Churches. There is indeed new life taking place in the Malaysian Churches, having wonderful dialogues with the Lutheran Church and Vatican and one can ponder not only local ecumenical concerns, but also international ecumenicity and perspectives on global issues as well for the Church today.
跨宗派考察团 – 马来西亚基督教联合会（执行议会）及马来西亚基督教协进会（宗派教会领袖）到路德的历史脚踪以及罗马梵蒂冈的考察
此考察团是由叶泉清会督发起而得到马来西亚基督教联合会的执行议会及马来西亚协进会的各宗派教会领袖的支持，我们深感荣幸因为马来西亚基督教信义会是筹办此考察团的主要单位。我们非常蒙福能得马来西亚基督教信义会的德国宣教伙伴巴戈利亚福音信义会(ELCB)和其宣教部门– Mission One World (MoW) 及Rev. Thomas Paulsteiner – 巴布新几内亚/大西洋/东亚区的领导人，协助第一段的旅程。
第二段位罗马梵蒂冈的考察则由天主教吉隆坡总主教廖柄坚安排，在启程前几天因其家母罹患心脏病而被迫取消行程，因此由 George Harrison 神父及叶泉清会督代替。（以下的文章经由叶泉清会督稍作修正与增加篇幅，由天主教的Carmelita Xavier 姐妹主笔，刊登在2019 年6 月份的角声周刊中）。
吉隆坡：马来西亚基督教协进会及马来西亚基督教联合会的执委们非常期待此次的2019 年路德历史脚踪及罗马梵蒂冈的考察，这是信义会、天主教、卫理公会、圣公会、救世军、弟兄会及神召会第一次共同见证马丁路德在德国的工作以及罗马的天主教会。随团的有马来西亚卫理公会王怀德会督博士、信义会叶泉清会督、砂磱越及汶莱的圣公会会督Danald Jute、沙巴圣公会拿督梅德泰益斯会督、圣公会西马教区会督及东南亚圣公会大主教拿督黄满兴、西马卫理公会中文年议会会长郭汉成牧师博士、大马救世军李少校、马来西亚基督教联合会执行秘书以及弟兄会的Tang Kong Beng 长老、芙蓉天主教的George Harrison 神父、马来西亚基督教联合会槟城分会主席 Arokiadass Anthonysamy 弟兄、马来西亚全国福音基督徒团契（NECF）执行秘书Rev. Andy Chi、马来西亚卫理公会沙磱越中文年议会的会长池金代牧师博士、Rita Wong 姐妹一名天主教律士以及Gopal Sundaram 弟兄一名卫理公会律士，两位都是马来西亚基督教联合会的委员；他们的配偶也一起同行。
在许多的经历后，我们不难听到信义宗及天主教的领袖们分享教会合一的生活方式，考察团与信义会的Rev Gabriele Lipski及两位奥古斯丁修道院的修士有了美好的分享，他们在德国的艾尔福特于同一间教会主持联合崇拜，他们所分享的见证及挑战都深具意义，大家都深信只要是为了教会共同的好处而达到合一，那就没有不可能的事。马来西亚基督教联合会有机会与慕尼黑巴戈福音信义会总会的会督 Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm 见面， 他分享在德国所面临的许多挑战以及宗教改革如何影响现今人的生活。他指出教会合一的生活方式是如此深入地影响着今天的德国教会，虽然面对许多的挑战，但教会尽其所能以基督的爱维系合一的精神，他重申教会必须强调丰富的传统但须贬低别的宗派；午餐时继续进行这一段有意义的分享。
这次难得的旅程打开了我们的视野，让我们体会到许多的可能性及努力的成果，就如马来西亚教会联合会的执行秘书Tan KongBeng 弟兄分享说“我们很享受这次的旅程因其带来许多学习的机会、自我反省及个人的转化、团契，最重要是当中相互的欢乐和等待。”考察团的前半段行程是参观位于德国境内宗教改革发生的地点，有好几次历史似乎重现，使我们体验到当时引发宗教改革运动的大环境，以至改变了整个基督教的世界，即便存在许多不同的神学立场、教会的传统及各种形式的逼迫，很庆幸教会至今依然坚持见证基督拯救的大能。
在德国我们被邀请与巴戈利亚福音信义会教区主席Dr. Annekathrin Preidel 和夫婿以及负责巴布新几内亚、亚洲/ 大西洋区的部门主管 Rev. Thomas Paulsteiner 一起有段咖啡分享时间， Rev. Thomas Paulsteiner 也是这次旅程主要的联络人；Dr. Preidel 迅速介绍自己是一名嫁给天主教徒的信义宗信徒！这样的开场白已经阐明她对教区现今的带领方向，她强调教会须以合一的心态共同活出一个基督的身体，当中也分享了许多教会关心的事宜，与会者都非常动。
救世军的Lee Kong Yee 少校见证分享说巴戈福音信义会的宣教精神、宗教改革带来的丰富传承、在Neuendettelsau 的天主教与信义宗的联合崇拜、梵蒂冈与世界各地基督教团体的对话都很正面及温心。马来西亚教会联合会也给予机会在威登堡的路德花园栽种一棵树。在罗马的画、地标、雕塑及圣殿是如此的神圣庄严，使人不免要问以当时的技术如何能完成这样的结构；考察团也拜访了梵蒂冈推广基督教合一的枢机主教Kurt Koch，他们的工作跨越各宗派教会甚至全球，其中包括东政教、卫理公会、圣公会、福音派、五旬节教会、浸信会、再洗礼派、门诺教派，都以与信义宗成功合作方式为基础。考察团有机会拜访驻教廷的马来西亚大使馆新任大使 Mr. Westmoreland Palon 以及他的团队。在简短的介绍和会议后，我们享用了一餐马来西亚式的午餐，王会督在午餐后召集大家为尊贵的 Westmoreland Palon 祷告。
在巴戈利亚的基层教会联合事工让Gopal Sundaram 弟兄大开眼界，在Neuendettelsau 举行的联合崇拜使他印象深刻，整个崇拜由信义宗及天主教的神职人员主持，其中有敬拜赞美，之后由信义宗牧者分享神的道，最后在农场有个户外团契！黄满兴大主教见证说“不但让我们看到美丽的景象以及早期教会领袖的美好历史，也加强我们以全球的观点看待在主里的牺牲、顺服及信心，除外也激发我重新委身要更热心地侍奉主耶稣，盼望带来自己、家庭、社区、社会甚至国家的转化。