Local priest travels to Taiwan

The Rev. Canon Dr. Philip Der with Archbishop Ng Moon Hing and his wife, deaconess Ding Siew Lan.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Philip Der of St. Christopher, Richmond Hill, joins Archbishop Ng Moon Hing and his wife, deaconess Ding Siew Lan, at the conference in Taiwan.
 on May 30, 2024

Chinese Anglicans discuss challenges, church planting

The World Chinese Anglican Clergy Fellowship, held every four years, was held in Taipei, Taiwan from April 9-12. The 144 participants, including seven bishops, came from Singapore, East and West Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the United States and Taiwan.

On the first day of the conference, the Rt. Rev. Lennon Chang, Bishop of Taiwan, warmly welcomed the participants and thanked them for their courageous presence, as Taiwan had just experienced an earthquake and its many aftershocks. Volunteers picked up guests from the airport and looked after all their needs. Their kindness and hospitality were widely appreciated.

The second day of the conference was held at St. John’s University in Tamsui, which is an hour and 20 minutes by bus from Taipei. St. John’s is one of the Anglican universities in Asia. It was founded in 1879 by Bishop Samuel Schereschewsky. Like many universities in Taiwan, St. John’s is challenged by declining student enrollment. The low birth rate and aging population in Taiwan called for a creative solution. The university received government approval and funding in 2023 to build a 200-bed long-term care facility on the campus; it is about to offer programs and courses related to senior care.

Many western missionaries were forced out of China when the Communist Party took power in 1949. The last group of missionaries and priests left in 1952. Many of them became the first wave of the Chinese Christian diaspora in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. As a result, Chinese Anglican leaders saw the need for a conference or fellowship for clergy and missionaries to support each other. Thus began the first World Chinese Anglican Clergy Fellowship in 1953.

I gained a few insights from this gathering and would like to share them with you in this article. First, all the diaspora congregations face a similar situation. Chinese parishes in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and Canada struggle with multi-lingual challenges. Chinese language is no longer the preferred language for our second-generation members; therefore, we need to provide worship services for them in their language of choice. In addition, it is challenging to find priests or lay pastors to lead these congregations and to do discipleship. Many incumbents need to run at least two or even three congregations each weekend in various languages; that translates into double or triple the effort when preparing bulletins, sermons and worship rosters. This extra work is taking a toll on many Chinese clergy. Some parish priests also provide cross-cultural ministry to local immigrants such as Indians, indigenous Malays and Indonesians. As a result, they are ministering to up to five congregations in five dialects. The Diocese of Sabah in East Malaysia recently organized a three-day children’s worship conference with more than 400 children under 12 years of age from across the diocese. The hosting parish, Christ Church, has more than 200 Sunday school students and five congregations. The incumbent, Archdeacon Moses Chin, served at St. Michael and All Angels in Sandakan, where my wife and her family worshipped in 1980s. It was wonderful to reconnect with him and his wife, Lorraine, in Taiwan after almost 40 years.

Church planting seemed to be the unofficial theme of the conference. Sydney, Australia has 23 Chinese Anglican congregations and most of them are Mandarin- speakers from China. Bishop Stephen Soe from West Malaysia planted nine congregations under his leadership. The most impressive church planting work was done by Archbishop Ng Moon Hing, the retired Archbishop of the Province of Southeast Asia. He planted 50 congregations before he became the bishop of West Malaysia. Then, after he was consecrated bishop, he helped the parishes to plant another 50 congregations in his diocese. He said the most frequently asked question he receives is, where did he find so many church leaders to maintain the new church plants? People tell him, “Our congregation is not large enough to plant a new church. We do not have enough manpower. We need more leaders.” Archbishop Ng said, “The most important thing in church planting is the vision. We cast the vision. Then God will provide.” He said that when the mother church planted a mission, the congregation doubled. A few years later, they planted another mission, and the congregation quadrupled in size. He reached out to Indigenous people all over Asia through interpreters, and many accepted Jesus. In 2015, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, resulting in close to 9,000 casualties. The Provincial Relief Team started delivering food and other essentials to local villages where they had set up a mission many years earlier. On one such trip, they discovered that one of the villages was half-empty because most of the villagers had gone to a wedding celebration. While they were pondering what to do with all the supplies in their helicopter, three different groups of people arrived in that village, having walked three or four days to get there. The three patriarchs from the villages told the relief team that they had been praying to their gods for food after the massive earthquake. They saw a man in white robes like Jesus in their prayers and were told to take the journey to that site and they would find food. After meeting the relief team, they praised God for His providence. After their second meeting with the relief team, they all believed in Jesus. A few months later, Nepalese priests travelled to each of their villages and baptized more than 3,000 people. Archbishop Ng also confirmed over 700 adults in that area. The experience was overwhelming!

I had the opportunity to present a snapshot of Chinese Anglican ministry in Canada. Currently, Canada has a total of 14 Cantonese and four Mandarin congregations, if we include those who left the Anglican Church of Canada due to the 2002 motion on the blessing of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of New Westminster.  These Chinese Anglican congregations are in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Edmonton, Toronto, Richmond Hill, Markham, Mississauga and Oakville.

We often talk about downsizing churches, more amalgamation or cluster ministry in Canada, yet the Canadian population continues to grow and now it surpasses 40 million. The conference helped me realize that the question is not about us having too many churches, but rather we need more missional leaders who share the vision and mission to reach out to our communities.

Bishop Chang of Taiwan reorganized the Anglican seminary, Trinity School for Christian Ministry, in 2020 to reflect a new endeavour in the changing world to response to God’s call. The first cohort graduated last year. Bishop Chang’s goal is to equip all seminarians to plant churches. This affirms the missional theology that it is not the Church who has a mission, but it is the missional God who uses the Church to do His mission. We are called to do God’s mission and bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all.


Keep on reading

Skip to content