“Hello, Taiwan! It is a blessing to be with you on this glorious day, and I know that I speak for all the archbishops and bishops that this is a glorious day!” With that joyful introduction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry began his sermon to an expectant crowd of over 400 people gathered inside and outside St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei on Feb. 22 to witness the ordination, consecration, installation and seating of the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the sixth bishop of Taiwan.
Despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, it was considered safe to continue with the consecration service, although the evening’s consecration banquet was canceled and travel restrictions meant that the archbishop and bishops of Hong Kong were unable to participate. The service was performed in Mandarin Chinese and English, and Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The co-consecrators were Bishop David J. H. Lai of Taiwan, Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, Archbishop and Primate of Japan Nathaniel Uematsu, Bishop Haruhisa Iso of Osaka (Taiwan’s companion diocese) and Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia. Archbishop and Primate of Korea Moses Yoo, Bishop Todd Ousley of the presiding bishop’s staff, Bishop John Smylie of Wyoming, most of the Province VIII bishops and a group of 15 clergy and church members from the Diocese of Osaka gave the service a special international flavor. Clergy stoles, flowers and decorations were all in traditional Chinese red, while firecrackers and a taiko drum performance enlivened the celebrations during the service, as did the combined choir from three Taipei churches.
Chang, 64, is married to Hannah Fen-Jan Wei and has two daughters and three grandchildren. He graduated in 1975 with a diploma in industrial engineering from St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology, the predecessor of St. John’s University, Taipei, where he was also baptized in 1970. As associate professor of mathematics at St. John’s University from 1983 to 2016, Chang was ordained a deacon in 1995 and a priest in 1999. He served as chaplain of St. John’s University (1997-2016) and vicar, later rector, of Advent Church on the St. John’s University campus, which serves as both university chapel and parish church.
In his acceptance speech after his election as bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, Chang said, “Building on the work of Bishop David J. H. Lai over the past 20 years, I will continue to go forth in the name of the Lord.” His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong, first Chinese bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s University, whose motto was “Transforming lives through the life of Christ.” Chang sees himself as inheriting Wong’s legacy, and in his sermon Curry referred to Wong’s life and witness, exhorting the congregation, “I want you and your bishop-elect to claim this high calling, to transform lives through the life of Christ, through the love of Christ, through the goodness of Christ. Bishop Wong was right! I hope you are as excited about this as I am!” He ended his sermon with some personal encouragement to Chang: “Help us to follow Jesus, help us to find our way to God and to each other, and may the legacy of Bishop Wong be your ministry in the future!”
At the end of the service, Curry paid tribute to Chancellor Herbert H. P. Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Episcopal Church in Taiwan, which was established in 1954 and is now a member diocese of Province VIII.”
The above article was our official account of the consecration, published on the Episcopal News Service (ENS) website here.
Photos of the Consecration Service
Part 1: Before the service – checking temperatures and preparation…
Part 2: The Consecration Service…
And some of the group photos…
We give thanks to God that everything went so smoothly, and we thank you all for your prayers, concern and support.
It was particularly moving for us that so many bishops decided to come to Taiwan, despite the coronavirus situation, to join in the consecration service. As you know from the ENS article above, the archbishop, bishops and visitors from Hong Kong, and also the Rev. Canon Bruce Woodcock from the Episcopal Church sadly had to cancel because of travel restrictions. Many Taiwan people chose to stay home and watch on the livestream instead, a wise move particularly for those sitting outside. It was sunny in the morning but in the afternoon a cold wind blew and it started to rain – definitely chilly and wet!
Fourteen bishops signed and sealed the ordination certificate, those mentioned in the article above, plus other Province VIII bishops: Bishop Megan Traquair of N. California, Bishop Gretchen Rehberg of Spokane, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, Bishop Mark Lattime of Alaska and Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce of Los Angeles, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops and who read one of the testimonials in the service – in Mandarin Chinese! The Province VIII bishops had arrived earlier in the week to hold a meeting from February 19-21. For Bishop Greg Rickel’s account of his visit to Taiwan for the consecration, see his blog post here. These are the bishops who were at the consecration service, along with the retired RC Archbishop of Taipei and bishops from the Methodist and Lutheran Churches in Taiwan…
The first of the US bishops to arrive in Taiwan was Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick and his wife Bea from Hawaii who came especially early in order to meet with Bishop-elect Chang as his ‘coaching bishop’. They met all day on Tuesday, while Bea spent the day with Hannah, and I went along too. Yes, they’re all such lovely people!…
The official events of the consecration weekend started on Friday February 21, when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met with the press, namely the Christian Tribune (whose report is here) and the Christian Daily (here) and I was there too. The first question was from the Christian Tribune, about how Presiding Bishop Curry responds to the fear created by the coronavirus situation. He answered with the words of 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out fear’ and described how, for him, that meant trusting in God through prayer, following medical advice about what precautions to take, caring for others, and working to making sure that everyone has access to good healthcare. He was also asked about how he balances ancient traditions with a changing modern society, how to encourage young people in their faith, and the importance of being involved both ecumenically and internationally.
This was followed by a meeting with the diocesan clergy and spouses, then lunch together. In the afternoon, there was a rehearsal for the consecration service, and a welcome dinner in the evening, with gift presentations and speeches.
On the Saturday, the bishops gathered in the morning for the signing and sealing of the ordination certificate, then a meeting with the Presiding Bishop…
The completed ordination certificate, ready for framing….
And the bishops are ready!
The consecration service went so well! One special mention must be made of 13-year-old Samuel Z. W. Liu, grandson of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, former dean of the cathedral. Samuel did the the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 42: 1-9, in English, and we were all really impressed. He spoke clearly with beautiful pronunciation, and he was calm and confident; a real credit to himself and his grandfather!
That the consecration service went so well was in part due to a team of key people who made sure everything ran smoothly, on time and according to plan. Ms. Sharon Jones (in red in the photos below with bishops and spouses) is Presiding Bishop Curry’s executive coordinator, and it was wonderful to find out that she comes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This is a very important country to Taiwan, one of the few with official diplomatic relations. Taiwan is recognized by only 14 out of 193 United Nations member states (plus the Holy See) – and St. Vincent is one of them. We were able to share with Sharon about the 3-month training project at St. John’s University last year with a group from Latin America and the Caribbean, including 5 trainees from St. Vincent (see that blog post here). Welcome Sharon!
Mr. Tim Pan is our translator-extraordinaire! He translated for the Presiding Bishop on his last visit to Taiwan in 2017, and he arranged his schedule to help this time too. He has extensive knowledge of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan and in the US, he knows his Bible, and he knows how to translate from Chinese to English and back again very quickly, plus he has a really good connection with the Presiding Bishop and even coordinates his body language as he translates. Yes, Tim was great! Knowing he was coming to translate meant we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief – and we could relax and enjoy the whole experience!
Another key person was Canon Mark Stevenson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, with whom I had corresponded in a grand total of 98 emails (yes, it’s true!) since August 2019, when we started to organize the consecration. He even came to Taiwan for a few days in October 2019 to help us with the planning. Just amazing. At the rehearsal last Friday afternoon, he had everyone rehearsing over and over until it all went like clockwork. This is Canon Mark in action on the left with Rev. Lily Chang on the right…
After the consecration service on Saturday, everyone was talking about how beautiful the service was, such a grand occasion and so well-choreographed. Much of the credit for that must go to Canon Mark, but he himself said it was largely due to Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung. She was the very hard-working chair of the liturgy and music section of the consecration committee, helped considerably by the other members, Rev. Keith C. C. Lee, Rev. Simon T. H. Tsou, Very Rev. Philip L. F. Lin, Rev. Antony F. W. Liang and Mrs. Amy Chee. The consecration booklet they produced in both Chinese and English was extremely comprehensive, and the list of all those who participated was very extensive. The music was amazing, the combined choir from St. John’s Cathedral, Advent Church and Good Shepherd had been practicing for weeks. The choir sang from the cathedral balcony and they were wonderful!
Mrs. Amy B. H. Lin was a key leader in the consecration committee, in charge of the reception, the welcome dinner, transport for the Presiding Bishop and his team, and the ushers at the service. Mr. Di Yun-Hung helped too. The ushers were really well-coordinated and well-organized, keeping an eye on the congregation as well as making sure everyone had their temperatures checked on arrival, and hands sprayed with sanitizer. (The clergy had made the decision that they and all those in the procession would not wear face-masks for the service, but for the congregation, it was a personal decision). Amy was invaluable, as always, and much of the success of the whole event was due to her organization and coordination. This photo was taken at the welcome dinner, Amy is 4th from the left next to Linda, wife of the cathedral dean, Philip Lin.
Thanks to our photography team, Mr. Yei, Mr. Warren Chuo, Rev. Antony Liang and Mr. Derchu Chan. I took a few photos too (2,500 in fact, and it’s taken me all week to get them sorted – hence the delay in producing this blog post!) and mostly I had to wear a purple jacket to show I was on the team. Everyone else, those in the congregation, were discouraged from taking photos during the service so as to keep a worshipful atmosphere. There were many other people who helped and supported, planned and organized. Too many to name – but a big thank you to all!
The consecration was livestreamed and recorded for you to watch on YouTube here – it’s nearly 3 hours long but really worth watching!
The consecration banquet, originally arranged for the Saturday evening was cancelled, meaning everyone could go home, but for the international guests, we arranged a small dinner. During the dinner, Archbishop Moses of Korea asked to sing a song, and that led on to all the other groups of bishops and visitors standing up to perform. For the Taiwan group, Hannah led a children’s action song in Taiwanese. I am sure that not many new bishops, on the night of their consecration, find themselves standing up in front of other bishops performing an action song for children!
Among all the international visitors was a group of 15 clergy and church members from our companion diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by their bishop, Bishop Haruhisa Iso. One of their very lovely clergy, Rev. Akira Iwaki and his wife were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary that very day. Rev. Iwaki has been to Taiwan many times, and the last time he came, it was his 70th birthday. This time he was celebrating 50 years of marriage. Many congratulations to them both! He led the Osaka ladies in a lively song at the dinner….
Bishop Lai generously gave everyone a prize for singing, either a teapot or some tea! He and Lily have now retired, and on Sunday they left Taipei for Tainan, where they will live. We have really appreciated Bishop Lai’s leadership in the diocese, and particularly in developing the international friendships and relationships that have helped our diocese to be more outward-looking and with a broader vision that goes way beyond this small island of Taiwan. Presiding Bishop Curry and Bishop Lai are House of Bishops classmates, meaning they became bishops in the same year. As the Presiding Bishop said at the welcome dinner, now that Bishop Lai is retiring, he is the last one from his class still in the House of Bishops. Bishop Lai will be much missed and we wish him and Lily a happy and healthy retirement!
On Sunday morning also, the Presiding Bishop and his group went to Christ Church, Chungli, Taoyuan for the service there and Archbishop Moses from Korea was preaching at the English service at St. John’s Cathedral, while the Osaka group visited Good Shepherd Church, Taipei. Our brand new bishop, Bishop Chang and his wife, Hannah were at Good Shepherd Church too, and I also went along. Bishop Chang wore his new green stole, a gift from Bishop Iso at the welcome dinner. I just love this photo of Bishop Chang and Bishop Iso, taken at Good Shepherd Church.
For Bishop Chang it was most appropriate that he should start his new ministry as bishop at Good Shepherd, as that was the church where he was ordained deacon in 1995. Bishop Iso preached and the rector, Rev Keith C. C. Lee translated. The Gospel was read in Japanese by Rev. Kiyomi Semmatsu from Osaka, and in Chinese by Keith Lee. Keith is able to preach in 4 languages, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English and Japanese; so he’s a really valuable person to have around! At the end of the service, Bishop Chang presented gifts to Bishop Iso, Rev. Iwaki and his wife, and Ms. Chao Wen-Yi, our former colleague in the St. John’s University Chaplaincy for many years, whose 70th birthday was on Sunday – and what a special way to celebrate!
All the Osaka group with Bishop Chang, Hannah and Rev. Keith Lee…
And everyone in the congregation at Good Shepherd Church…
Then followed the most exquisite and delicious Japanese-style lunch, prepared by the ladies of Good Shepherd Church. It was just beautiful, with special place mats too, welcoming everyone to Good Shepherd Church – printed in Japanese, with the Good Shepherd cross…
Ms. Susan Shih, the very talented wife of Good Shepherd’s senior warden, Jake Hung was in charge of the lunch. She was also in charge of all the beautiful flower arrangements for the consecration service at the cathedral, all in stunning Chinese-style, with a lot of red. And she sang in the combined choir too. Thank you Susan, a really special lady!
On Monday morning, I went with Bishop Chang to take the Presiding Bishop and his group to the airport for their departure. They were flying via Seoul, and their flight was full of boys from a Korean youth baseball team, all in uniform with identical jackets, bags and all wearing face-masks and white gloves. The coronavirus situation in Korea is extremely serious, and later on Monday, the Taiwan government announced travel restrictions to be imposed from Tuesday onwards.
Taiwan is still holding its collective breath, and we are still hoping and praying that the coronavirus situation will improve. Taiwan currently has 32 confirmed cases; so far they remain contained and there has been no big community outbreak. Schools started their new semester this week and so far all is well, St. John’s University starts its new semester on March 3. All around us, in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, the situation is very serious. The Taiwan government continues to be very vigilant, and yesterday announced the cancellation of big gatherings, including temple events, which would bring together large numbers of people in close contact, which probably would also have included our consecration service. President Tsai Ing-wen announced that she has suspended preparations for her inauguration ceremony, due to be held on May 20. We have also cancelled (or possibly rescheduled for next year) the World Anglican Chinese Clergy Fellowship conference in Taipei that was to have been held in April.
And what next? Well, on Tuesday, Bishop Chang was elected as the new chair of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees, succeeding Bishop Lai who was chair for the last 2 years. The challenges ahead are many.
Please do pray for him and Hannah as they settle into the new role, for wisdom, grace and strength.
To end with, some photos with my favourite people!
And finally a special prize goes to this charming young man for sitting through the whole consecration service outside in the cold and rain, and who was still smiling to the end!
Please do continue to pray for us, for the coronavirus situation, for the Diocese of Taiwan and our new bishop.
Thank you, and thanks be to God!