This special event was given added significance through the kindness of Mr. Gregory Chen 陳國瑞 of the Roman Catholic Church, who designed and made four beautiful stoles for the occasion, two for each church. The stoles have the logos of the Methodist Graduate School of Theology (MGST) 衛理神學研究院 and the Taiwan Episcopal Church’s Trinity School for Christian Ministry (TSCM) 三一書院, and were worn by both bishops and their chaplains at the service …..
The signing of the agreement took place during a Thanksgiving Service held at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei at 3:30 pm on Saturday October 30, 2021, postponed from the original date of Trinity Sunday, May 30, due to the pandemic. Taiwan is currently under Level 2 Restrictions, so facemasks are compulsory at all indoor events, but are allowed to be removed for a few seconds to take group photos. This was the whole group after the service …..
Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang 張員榮主教 of the Taiwan Episcopal Church and Bishop Kwan-Wah Pong 龐君華會督 (Pang Jun-Hua) of the Methodist Church both spoke of how they share a common vision for cooperation together in the field of theological education, drawing on much that our churches share in history, tradition, experience and culture. In fact, when Bishop Chang first approached Bishop Pong about the idea of working together, Bishop Pong said he had already been wondering whether such cooperation would be possible, so he was delighted!
Since becoming Bishop of Taiwan last year, Bishop Chang has re-established and expanded Trinity Hall (originally founded in 1984), the diocesan theological program through which he himself did all his theological study. It is now known as Trinity School for Christian Ministry, under dean Rev. Canon David Chee 徐子賢院長, and working in cooperation with St. John’s University, Taipei. The Taiwan Episcopal Church has always been too small to operate its own theological college, and in the past has relied on sending seminarians to be trained at Taiwan’s Presbyterian or RC colleges (with supplementary courses at Trinity Hall on Anglicanism), and more recently Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong. Currently we have one first-year seminarian studying at Virginia Theological Seminary in the USA, two who have studied elsewhere and are now upgrading / completing their courses through TSCM, and we have two first-year seminarians who have just started full-time at TSCM this semester (they led the procession into the cathedral)….
‘The Methodist Church in the Republic of China’ (its official name) 中華基督教衛理公會 is much larger than the Taiwan Episcopal Church, and its Methodist Graduate School of Theology (now under their acting president, Rev. Feng-Chuan Lin 林烽銓院長) was established in 1997, with a permanent college base in Taipei City. Their students all attended the Thanksgiving Service, as did ours from TSCM. The Methodist Church also brought a choir to the Thanksgiving Service, and they sang 2 beautiful songs, one in English, ‘Jesus Changes Everything’ during the signing ceremony, and ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’, sung in Chinese during Holy Communion.
According to the new theological education cooperation agreement, seminarians from both churches are eligible to study on courses at both institutions, credits will be transferable, and there are plans for faculty exchange, joint seminars and other sharing of resources as the program develops. Each church normally has stringent procedures and discernment processes for admittance as a diocesan seminarian; under this agreement, each church will also accept the other church’s seminarians into their theological programs, meaning they will not have to apply for admission separately. Already our two first-year seminarians are taking courses at MGST, with some classes online and others in-person.
The Signing Ceremony….
Both Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong mentioned that the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley remained in the Church of England, the Anglican Church, until the day they died. They did not join the Methodist Church. Now, as Anglican and Methodist Churches in the UK and USA are working together more and more, so we in Taiwan are also called to cooperate together in a spirit of ecumenism and unity. In Taiwan our denominations are small, so collaborating together in theological education will bring great benefits to both churches, helping us to train seminarians and church workers more effectively in ministry.
After the signing ceremony, Holy Communion was celebrated together by Bishop Chang and Bishop Pong, symbolizing our belonging to one family in Christ. Bishop Pong gave the final blessing.
We give thanks to God for this historic and memorable day, for the agreement signed and those who are on the frontlines at TSCM and MGST in making this cooperation happen, including Rev. Antony F. W. Liang 梁凡偉牧師 and Rev. Tai-Yao Chiu 邱泰耀牧師 who served as bishop’s chaplains at the service and wore the specially-designed stoles. We ask you to pray in the days ahead as our churches work more closely together in the field of theological education. To God be the glory!
A great day indeed, and yes, John and Charles Wesley would have been so proud!
The Christian Tribune report of this event in Chinese is here