The Province of Southeast Asia celebrates the Installation of her Third Archbishop

Confidence for the Challenges Ahead

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Resounding cheers and shouts of joy filled the ground of the St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore, as Anglican Primates, bishops and clergy with raised hands, singing ‘Christ triumphant, ever reigning,’ gathered to pray and bless the new Archbishop,  Dr John Chew, towards the end of the Installation Service for the Third Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church in Southeast Asia.

On Sunday 5th February, the 2-hour long installation ceremony, right in the heart of the city of Singapore, was indeed a celebration of the work of God in this young Province. There were 1,600 guests in attendance, some overflowing into the new and modern 900-seater basement Sanctuary. Primates, Bishops and senior church leaders from all over the world joined in the celebration. There were moments of joy as the body of Christ came together ecumenically. As we scanned the packed sanctuary, there were also local government leaders, heads of other denominations such as the Methodist Bishop Solomon, heads of Anglican agencies, Christian organizations and most importantly, Christians from all walks of life.

“It is wonderful to see the Anglican liturgy done so beautifully; singing the hymns of the Church, praying for the new Archbishop and his family, everyone blessing him at the door of the Cathedral with raised hands. It was a wonderful experience of integrity in worship,” remarked Canon Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary of the Anglican Mainstream International.

There were moments of thought provoking spiritual significance especially when new Archbishop stated unequivocally in his sermon that our confidence to fulfill our responsibilities and speak to the world rest in the truth of Christ which through the Cross has set us free from sin and our self-centered human condition.

The Bishop of Kuching and Brunei, Datuk Made Katib, remarked that the new Archbishop will provide leadership and inspiration for all the clergy and parishes in our Province. Dr Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt made this observation, “Today we heard a prophetic voice – the truth will set us free. Not “a” truth but THE truth in Christ, in Scripture, in Gospel. He is a strong voice, a Primate who is so committed to the goals of the Gospel and the work of the Lord.”

Amongst this august audience, were also three key Chinese leaders; Mr Ye Xiaowen, Director General, State Administration for Religious Affairs, Presbyter Ji Jianhong, Chairman of the Three Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches of China and Revd Cao Shengjie, President of the China Christian Council. This is a testimony to the deep friendship that John Chew has developed with them and his desire to help the emerging Church contribute to nation-building in China. A bishop observed, “His good relationship with politicians and church leaders in China has been cultivated through the years.  Consistently, he has come across as a intellectual with deep, mature insights and long-term vision for the Church and society. And as a person, he is warm, sincere, humble, trustworthy and committed to the Christian faith.” 

Archbishop John Chew is now keeper of the flame that was first ignited 10 years ago with the birth of the Province, with the Bishop of Singapore then, Rt Revd Dr Moses Tay, as her first Pimate. The Diocese of Singapore is now privileged to serve the Province once again through her current bishop. Since its birth in 1996, the Province, consisting of the Dioceses of Kuching, Sabah, Singapore and West Malaysia, has grown from strength to strength, overcoming challenges of the complexities for Gospel mission in countries with ancient Asian civilizations and faiths in the midst of relentless economically driven globalization, secularism and extremists threats.

In 2000, the Most Revd Datuk Yong Ping Chung, the Bishop of Sabah, took on the mantle of leadership. He reflected on the handover of his responsibility, “I can retire with confidence because the Province is in the good hands of a servant who will continue the vision we had when we first started. And I am looking forward to my next appointment – as a fulltime grandparent!” (The Province of Southeast Asia thanks Archbishop Yong…”)

Bishop Solomon from the Methodist Church noted, “John Chew plays an important role in the Anglican Communion. He is able to contribute the Asian voice and perspective. So the issues in the Anglican Communion are of interest to all. We (Methodists worldwide) do not live in a vacuum. What happens in one denomination has impact in others. John can make significant contributions to the Church worldwide.”

As The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative had this to say, “There are lots of healthy signs of community despite the differences. The Dioceses of Singapore and Malaysia are wonderful examples of how different ethnicities and religions can come together and the Anglo-Saxon world can learn so much from them.”

As the guests spilled into the grounds after the ceremony, it was a time of heartfelt camaraderie as the new Archbishop met many well-wishers including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore, Nicholas Chia.

The gathering of such a diverse group of leaders from so many nations best testimony to the mission and prophetic role of this Province, which many in events of these past few days have termed as ‘small but influential.”

And as the evening fades, and the guests start dispersing, the new Archbishop, tired but grateful to all who has helped, was overheard saying, “What a week it has been. The events may be all over. But actually, the work is only just beginning.” In view of the challenges ahead, these can only be words of confidence and commitment from a person of deep faith in the Christian tradition. News@Global South Anglican 2006