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Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination
 

Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination

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    Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination Document Transcript

    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination Janice Chin Yen Ni March 20, 2009 Fuller Theological Seminary MC520 New Religious Movements Prof. Ryan Bolger Winter 2009 Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 1
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger 1. Introduction This simple study serves to briefly illustrate the New Church Movement (NCM) in Malaysia, based on four major characteristics of selected churches showing distinctives and dissimilarities, concluding with a reflective analysis for anticipated development. For purpose of discussion within a manageable scope, the term NCM will hereafter refer to younger church plants from the last 10 years, which are not linked with any existing denomination. A mainline Lutheran denomination is the comparative choice alongside said NCM. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy known for being multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. Ruled predominantly by Malay-Muslims since its independence from British colonization in 1957, drastic economic and social changes have attributed to rapid urbanization and industrialization.1 Its population of 26 million consists of 60% Muslims, 19% Buddhists, 9% Christians, 6% Hindus, etc., of which 50% are Malays, with 23% Chinese, 11% Indigenous, 7% Indian and others.2 Ethnicity has always been strongly tied to religious belonging and cultural identity, i.e. Buddhist adherents are mainly Chinese, Hindu adherents Indian, Muslim adherents Malay and so on. Christianity is distinct in that it crosses ethnic boundaries, creating a new non- Malay and non-Muslim identity for its followers. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion but pressure against apostasy is great.3 This study is done in light of this context. 2. Characteristics of the NCM in Malaysia a. Background Since my first exposure to the emerging church conversation, I have been exploring the Malaysian scene, keeping in contact with a few leaders whom I consider leading voices of the conversation and are respected among pastors and youth workers. These younger churches, many not more than 10 years old and are led by pastors under 45 years old, function independent of denominational structure and are at the forefront of youth ministry nation-wide.4 This is key, as new church plants comprise mostly of young working adults and college students. However, my sources are not exhaustively representative of the Malaysian NCM; there are churches linked with mainline denominations that also consider themselves renewed and/or emerging. In 2004, a few emerging church leaders grouped together to form Emergent Malaysia; this has led to the 























































 1 See Rosnah Ismail, “Malaysia,” in The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Adolescence: A Historical and Cultural Survey of Young People Around the World, ed. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007), Vol II page 620. 2 “CIA - The World Factbook -- Malaysia." The World Factbook. 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2009 from CIA.org: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/my.html 3 Glenn Myers, The Rim of Fire: Indonesia and the Malay Speaking Muslim World (UK: OM Publishing, 1998), 56. See also the IISIC Bulletin, Feb-Mar 1996 and Feb-Mar 1997. 4 Cases include ACTS Church Malaysia, City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur and Eaglepoint Covenant Fellowship. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 2
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger formation of other networks.5 The development of this NCM is maturing, its churches generally displaying the following characteristics. b. Holistic Spirituality Slow Death of the Sunday Service In recent years, the idea of the Sunday service as the main worship time has undergone palpable change. Churches have allowed for worship services at times other than Sunday. For many, this change started with youth ministries that did not meet on Sundays taking on a more ‘service-like’ orientation. The growth of vibrant urban youth ministries across the nation led to a boom in the quantity of churched young people than before. A large percentage of these share a Charismatic slant boosted by the sharing of resources across denominations, e.g. invited preachers. In addition, churches affiliated with the renewal movement of denominational churches began holding several services on one weekend, as increase in attendees necessitated multiple services. The notion of ‘church as building’ is thus suffering a gradual death. Deconstruction of Church as Building Along with the shift in worship service times, more groups began meeting outside of the church building during weekdays. With the deconstruction of the notion ‘church is a building’ came the deconstruction of worship being held only within church walls. Subtly, the set-up of what worship space looks like among Malaysian Christians took on a more contemporary look, and with that, homes and coffeeshops are also used as ‘religious’ premises. As interest in being missional increases, NCM followers are encouraged to meet in friendly, non-threatening environments, conducive for building relationships with the lost. Praxis-oriented lifestyle directs their efforts in sharing the Gospel, and emphasis is placed on church as community rather than a building. Union of the Sacred and the Secular The term ‘marketplace ministry’ has long since been highlighted by parachurch organizations such as Navigators, FGB and CCC. Now the younger generation has begun speaking the same language, but louder, e.g. City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur, which echoes its ‘parent’, Singapore’s City Harvest Church, in its mandate to redeem the 7 spheres of culture. Christian young professionals are attracted to what they perceive as a holistic approach to faith, leaving behind the traditional approach of serving God only by pursuing sacred vocation. With this revolutionary paradigm, these followers prefer interest-based social groups that promote living out a spirituality that is effectual for all of life to churches that do not help integrate the sacred and the secular. Return to Intellectualism 























































 5 “From Sivin Kit (Malasyia).” Emergent Village Weblog. 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2009 from emergentvillage.com: http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/from-sivin-kit-malasyia Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 3
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger In Sacred Tensions, Ackerman and Lee stated, “The Charismatic movement provided a locus of meaning for the indigenization of Christianity in its emphasis on individual attainment of spiritual power and the practice of thaumaturgy.”6 But now, decades later, an aftereffect of the Charismatic renewal in Malaysian church history is a desire to reasonably articulate one’s faith. In integrating orthodoxy and praxis, NCM churches propagate the need to learn to communicate understanding of God to those who do not hold the same beliefs, without dismissing what may appear to be opposing philosophy. This post-Charismatic phenomenon is attributed to the younger generation consisting of Western-educated, English-speaking overseas returnees who by and large favor ‘intellectual faith’ over against blind adherence to charismatic superstition or religious fundamentalism. Along with this is the rise in receptivity of Malaysian young people to engage their campuses academically (read: intellectually), leading to the growth of campus ministries especially by these emerging churches. Apologetics has thus been making a comeback, which draws the ‘pomo’ crowd to dialogue. c. Emphasis on Relational Leadership Non-clergy Emphasis With the breakdown of the secular and sacred divide, the emphasis on lay leadership led to many ‘untrained ministers’ taking up positions of leadership in church ministries as well as parachurch organizations. The implementation of the cell church model for church growth in Asia saw a proliferation of the mantra “everyone is a leader”, therefore Malaysian cell churches began training their so-called ‘lay leaders’ to greater involvement to form wider leadership bases giving organized spiritual oversight to cell groups.7 Management principles began to be applied, with terms such as delegation, cell leader training, leadership development, administrative function of a pastor, cell group evaluation report, etc. being used as church jargon. Post-cell Church Model of Leadership Following that, however, instead of adopting the CEO hierarchy of cell churches from which these NCM churches in Malaysia typically emerge, these churches prefer a decentralized model of leadership with a distinctly relational thrust. Rather than seeking to influence with a managerial approach, creative channels not confined to direct church ministry is encouraged that require leadership not necessarily provided by the pastor or church leaders. The definition of ‘untrained ministers’ is being taken to another level, notwithstanding the fact that there are many seminary-trained leaders (and pastors) providing leadership for these emerging churches. Myriad of Specialized Ministries In wanting to see people make use of their unique gifts, experience and strengths in fields of their expertise, the spectrum of interests/needs to be catered to is so much broader. No one church can utilize or train their followers in their specialized ministries except through pooling of 























































 6 Susan E. Ackerman and Raymond L. M. Lee, Sacred Tensions: Modernity and Religious transformation in Malaysia (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1997), 128-9. 7 Here the term ‘cell churches’ denotes both cell churches as well as churches with cell groups. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 4
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger resources between fellow NCM or mainline churches. Seminars or conferences, e.g. media ministry forums, are often platforms for cross-pollenation and strategic networking for those sharing the same passion to create ideas and opportunities, or even to form entities that serve a particular purpose, e.g. LiveWire, an interchurch media ministry that exists to link up media artists in Malaysia to “encourage and equip them” in their ministry. Empowering Young Emerging Leaders As young leaders emerge as active participants in the community wherever they are, many NCM church leaders have placed priority on developing these leaders to be excellent and competent. Empowering them through various ways of mentoring became a primary focus, as NCM churches make space for young people to step into roles and responsibilities, providing for them ample spiritual guidance and involvement in teams. Some buzzwords include: organic leadership, relational mentoring, integrity modeling, leadership by example, etc. d. Engaging the Culture Rediscovered Spirituality Besides holistic spirituality, relational leadership and socio-political involvement, these new churches put a lot of emphasis (especially money!) on engaging surrounding culture, in this case, the pop culture affecting Malaysian society. With the majority of these churches comprising of young people, it is not surprising to see very trendy and chic designs in the furbishing of facilities. From lighting to hip sound vibes that bear uncanny resemblance to worship teams of churches like Hillsong and Planetshakers, relevance is the philosophy unashamedly displayed at worship services or youth concerts. As part of rediscovering their spirituality, expressiveness and creativity, arts and music play a major part in NCM. Media and Web Presence One can almost tell an NCM member from the way a church’s website is designed. Web presence is a chief means to promote its presence and to appeal to its target groups. Staffing now includes web and graphic designers, changing the way church staff and technology in the church are utilized. Flyers and posters printed and distributed by these churches for upcoming events or simply for information dissemination are painstakingly designed to attract attention with catchy pop-culture lines from movies or songs and/or artsy impressions that the emerging generation would relate to. Original and inventive – impossible is nothing. Paraphernalia of Christian Merchandise Burgeoning also is the bookstore culture or Christian café setting in major cities in Malaysia. Christian bookstores like Canaanland make available its paraphernalia of Christian merchandise, from best-selling books to hit worship albums popular with the Christian community, and help publicize many NCM events effectively because of the stream of customers. Informal meeting places that look like Taiwanese boba tea shops, Italian delis, or posh versions of the kopitiam (traditional Chinese coffeeshop) have become the most fashionable third place, where community life is vital, especially for the young adults to hang out after work Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 5
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger hours. 8 For many NCM followers, their gatherings (such as bible studies, idea meetings, discipleship sessions, pastoral discussions) revolve around these third places. Support of Artists Who Are Believers Churches that are a part of the NCM have seen more members engaging with pop culture through artists and celebrities who are also believers being directly involved with the media industry. Many of these musicians are involved in the underground music scene, but slowly a few are penetrating the mainstream culture and gaining a more commercialized image, as more support is rendered by the Christian community. The Malaysian ethnic diversity is seen in the array of language, style and culture engaged through the productions of these artists, bringing about distinctly Malaysian/Asian genres, i.e. Islamic metal, Indian hip-hop, Chinese pop, etc. The clubbing subculture being prevalent among college students as well as older adults have led to the churches’ redefinition of what their members should or should not participate in. e. Socio-political Involvement New Tide of Patriotism With the Islamization of the judicial system, more Malaysians are responding to the need to be engaged in nation building, social justice and matters of legislation, different from the armchair criticism typically associated with Christians. There has even been a call by the government “on Muslims to look at the propagation of Islam in a wider context and not just limited to delivering ceramah in mosques…[but] should cover all activities among the society.”9 This new tide of patriotism affecting academic and religious institutions has exerted pressure on the church to assess its reactionary approach to national issues, now seen deficient and a form of abdication of Christian duty. More young politicians now express faith in Jesus and engage with legislative matters in government. Micah Mandate, a Christian-based advocacy, states the national philosophy Rukunegara, i.e. the 5 canons of nationhood, as part of its identity.10 Current Political Scene One of the most surprising turns in Malaysia’s political history took place in March 2008, when a blend of opposition voices came together causing a political tsunami unfavorable for BN, the longtime ruling party. Repercussions have been ongoing. Only a short time ago, many Malaysians took comfort in remaining “apolitical”.” 11 One year later, politically-charged Malaysia has witnessed heaping criticism of its government, compounded by case after case that exposed the authorities’ intolerance and racial partiality, causing the rakyat to be caught up in a 























































 8 Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Handouts, and How They Get You Through the Day (New York: Paragon House, 1989). 9 “Kelantan Sultan saddened by split among Muslims.” The Malaysian Insider. 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009 from themalaysianinsider.com: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/19458-kelantan- sultan-saddened-by-split-among-muslims 10 “About Us.” The Micah Mandate. 2009. Retrieved March 3, 2009 from themicahmandate.org: http://www.themicahmandate.org/ 11 “.” The Micah Mandate. 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from themicahmandate.org: http://www.themicahmandate.org/2009/03/citizens-reborn-maturing-in-civil-engagement/ Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 6
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger whirlwind of hope for change. Ecumenism is gaining visibility across barriers with a united call for prejudice to be eradicated, including Muslim NGOs.12 Bloggers in Trouble With recent shifts in political power, new spaces for dialogue and engagement have been created. The growing number of users of alternative media and Internet who are also younger voters gave leverage to the unprecedented turn of political events, outside of government- controlled media.13 Freedom of speech, stipulated even in “verses of the Quran,” is at present the unifying factor for Malaysians across the board, Christians and Muslims alike.14 Spurred on by the detention of bloggers who were accused of threatening national security or insulting Muslims, a growing unrest stirs against irrational acts of suppression by the Muslim-majority government.15 Pioneering Efforts Along with the national vision of producing a caring society and a culture of volunteerism, establishment of corps such as Mercy and Yayasan Salam are championing causes of interest to members of NCMs.16 Organizations like the Society for Caring Youths (CARYS), a youth NGO, are engaging in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to fight drug abuse, a vice on the rise among Malaysian youth.17 These pioneering efforts can be attributed to the national vision of producing a caring society, healthy families and a culture of volunteerism. The NCM not only supports these endeavors, but also encourage Christians to be ambassadors for current issues that address the society’s needs at various levels. AYA Dream Malaysia Awards is a fine example of an NCM venture to “recognize the exceptional spirit of young Malaysians and companies…belief and commitment to the emerging generation.” 3. Basel Christian Church of Malaysia a. Brief History BCCM, the largest of four Lutheran bodies in Malaysia, now has approximately 112 congregations nationwide with up to 50,000 members. 18 What started with Chinese Hakka 























































 12 “Agitating Malay Muslims.” The Nut Graph. 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from thenutgraph.com: http://thenutgraph.com/article-2334.html#comments 13 Lee Kam Hing, Malaysia’s 12th General Elections: Changes and Continuities, 1 [document on-line]; available from http://www.cornerstone-msc.net/kairos/view_file.cfm?fileid=46; Internet; accessed 20 March 2009. 14 “Freedom of Opinion and Speech in Islam: Your Sunday Sermon.” Malaysia Today. 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2009 from mt.m2day.org: http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/18970/84/ 15 “Malaysian Court Frees Blogger.” Amnesty International. 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2009 from amnesty.org: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/good-news/malaysian-court-frees-blogger-20081107 16 “A Sabah Youth Volunteer Corps.” Daily Express. 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009 from dailyexpress.com: http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=46821 17 “A Deadlier Syabu Yet.” Counterdrug Press Summary. 25-31 August 2005. Retrieved March 2, 2009 from accordplan.net: http://www.accordplan.net/press/20050831.htm#_Toc113449184 18 “Basel Christian Church of Malaysia.” Wikipedia. 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basel_Christian_Church_of_Malaysia. For Lutheran membership statistics, see: James Aageson, Arland Jacobson, Arland Dean Jacobson, The Future of Lutheranism in a Global Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 7
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger immigrants settling in North Borneo in 1886 became a self-governing establishment that contributed much to the nation’s formal Chinese education. Since its inception, congregations have adopted Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin. This LCC-pedigree was renamed BCCM in 1966.19 In 1979, it became an official member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) under the umbrella of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia & Singapore (FELCMS); it is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). b. Dualistic Spirituality Emphasis on Church Membership Generations of church-going Chinese families grow up retaining denominational membership, changes primarily taking place only between congregations of another location or state. Emphasis on membership is enforced in membership transfer procedures and practice of the sacraments, i.e. baptism and the Holy Communion, giving rise to an exclusivist mentality among members; there is also a bearing on privileges for education in its educational establishments, marriage and funeral rites (including burial plots). Priority of the Pulpit and Premises Sunday service is the focal point of BCCM tradition, with the sermon being the main factor of the service. In fact, the Hakka word used for describing ‘going to church’ translates into ‘listening to the book’. Ministry activities mostly take place within designated church premises. As such, spirituality is demonstrated through committed attendance of programs organized by the church. Budgeting for property maintenance and/or extension has always been a major priority, particularly due to discriminatory zoning laws in Malaysia that limit construction of new churches. Therefore new church plants are few and far between, and existing infrastructure (including schools run by the churches) are preserved very rigidly. Maintenance Approach to Evangelism and Discipleship For BCCM, evangelism is through creating attractional programs for people to ‘come to church’ or to join membership. 20 There are annual evangelistic meetings, both by the denomination as a whole and by each congregation. Churches that adopt the models of either (1) church with cell groups or (2) cell group church usually sync their evangelistic agendas with BCCM’s liturgical calendar. Church members participate by bringing friends and family to church as and when these gatherings occur. Those who respond to the message of the gospel are urged to ‘be a member’ of that church. 


















































































































































































 Context (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2008), page 183. 19 “Lutheran Church of China”. Wikipedia. 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Church_of_China 20 During a missions conference in conjunction with its 120th anniversary, slogan 5555 was highlighted for 2001-2005 targeting 5,000 new church members, 500 prayer warriors, 50 theological students and 5 missionaries. See “LWF – News: 120 Years in Malaysia.” The Lutheran World Federation. 2002. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from lutheranworld.org: http://www.lutheranworld.org/News/LWI/EN/1005.EN.html Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 8
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger Christian education is an integral part of BCCM tradition; recent discussions focus on maturity as being fostered through blending holistic and liberative approaches for transformation. 21 However, effective discipleship has yet to take place. Churches run departments based on age groups such as children, young teens, youth, young adults, adults, and senior citizens to meet specific needs, and a congregant growing up as a church member would be seen to transit several times. Dropouts occur often while navigating transitions; this sometimes produces in the department leaders a maintenance approach to preserve structural and numerical stability. In this, discipleship is very much inflexible and non-creative, with emphasis on teaching materials and familiarity with church ministry. c. Hierarchical Leadership Centralized Structure BCCM leadership is a top-down model, beginning with the bishop and his/her General Council, followed by clusters of lay leaders grouped according to geographical location which oversee the parishes that are within that area. These groups have the responsibility to manage the administrative aspects of the denomination, such as property maintenance, human resource supervision, annual budget, etc. Pastors, on the other hand, are also grouped into clusters. However, they function under the jurisdiction of the lay clusters which have the power given by the General Council to make decisions concerning pastoral activities. Within each church of the denomination there is a local council that functions like the General Council but on a ‘local church’ scale; these councils report to the parishes and in turn, the General Council. The Training Track Within the BCCM denomination, every minister that is ordained must undergo formal theological training as a prerequisite; he or she would be required to attend a seminary that is recognized by the denomination in order to qualify. Ordination can happen once an aspiring pastor has fulfilled the requirements as set out, i.e. a basic degree in theology from a recommended or affiliated institution. The number of years of service that follow will determine the title with which he or she will be ordained, in order: Evangelist, Pastor, Reverend (Note: Ordination of women has been in effect since 1986). Once ordained, immediately he or she will be part of the denomination’s ministers’ list, subject to congregation transfer(s), salary scale along with retirement fund, church constitution and by-laws, the General Council, etc. Main Lutheran seminaries through which ministers are trained include the Lutheran Bible Training Institute, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and the Sabah Theological Seminary. Trained seminary graduates, once in fulltime pastoral ministry, generally require no additional training besides the initial academic requirements. Annually, there are conferences or 























































 21 “Christian Education.” The Lutheran World Federation. 1999. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from lutheranworld.org: http://www.lutheranworld.org/What_We_Do/DMD/_Old_pages/DMD- Christian_Education.html. See also: LWF Asia, Asia Lutheran News, 2 [document on-line]; available from http://asia-lutheran.org/aln/03.ALN_May02.pdf; Internet; accessed 10 March 2009. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 9
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger seminars for the purpose of equipping pastors and church leaders for better effectiveness in ministry. The rate of pastors leaving the denomination, however, have caused concern, as there are not as many pastors as there are congregations, and in some cases, the process of their decision to terminate service with BCCM was not carried out well or had caused much division. More recently, denominational leaders have been giving more attention to the need for leadership training and development, with the intention of helping pastors through challenges of dealing with pastoral issues with very practical and relevant handles as well as to guide them along in- service, and in so doing, reduce the number of ‘casualties’. Fulltime Ministry vs Secular Job Those who give up their ‘secular’ job to enter fulltime ministry are held in high regard. Conferences or camps for young people are generally geared towards challenging them to dedicate their lives (especially for fulltime ministry), i.e. be set apart to serve God in the church. When a member expresses a calling to ministry, he or she is encouraged to take up leadership role and subsequently to undergo formal bible training to ‘prepare for ministry’. Although allowable, those ‘in ministry’ are not encouraged to hold jobs in secular capacity, due to the sacred-versus-secular mentality. d. Extractional Fellowship Dichotomy of Social Life There is a clear distinction between church activity times and other aspects of life for most BCCM members. Because of the focus on going to church at designated times, members don’t view their social life, working life, etc. as part of their whole spiritual journey. This affects the level of intimacy in the church community, as the relationships built in that community stay within the bounds of what is considered church-related. Inviting friends who are not familiar with the church culture would often require some coordination to create a friendlier environment for that visit, or members would feel uncomfortable bringing their friends along, as the cultures are so disparate. One such example would be in the area of attire, particularly as people who are not ‘churched’ (or not religious, for that matter) are more likely to dress less modestly compared to BCCM members. A closer look would reveal that the members themselves would, on occasion, dress very differently compared to when they attend church on Sundays, giving the impression that one should ‘dress a certain way’ to worship God. Caution: Non-Christian Materials Along with that dichotomy, comes the issue pertaining to entertainment media. Traditionally, the culture of BCCM was to separate itself from all things ‘of the world’. Even now, songs, movies or magazines that do not have explicit Christian messages are not commonly used. In fact, use of these materials in teaching or preaching sessions is usually done with much care and may even need pastoral approval prior to use. This distance with the surrounding culture has become a problem not just with the young people, but also adults, as globalization continues to shift the values and perspectives of Malaysians. Now, youth ministries within the Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 10
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger denomination are attempting to bridge the gap by introducing non-Christian materials that spark discussion and capture students’ attention. e. Supportive of the Government Political Passivism In regards to the government, BCCM has always taken a passive stance as far as governmental affairs are concerned. The status quo of the church’s relationship with the government has been maintained very well, and many public gatherings of the people would show cabinet ministers and church bishops together for the purpose of speech-giving or the offering of public prayers. When there are opposing views as to the government’s policies, these are sometimes commented on from the pulpit but rarely is there overt statements or actions that may give the impression that the church has disagreement. But there were exceptions, e.g. the joint letter appeal to the chief minister on the “gravest concern for the Christian churches” in Sabah together with the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.22 Islamization and Socio-political Engagement Because of its position of privilege and prestige since colonial society, Christianity in Malaysia has been essentially a non-Malay religion.23 Division along ethnic lines was and still is prevalent both in and outside of the church, hindering racial integration and interreligious dialogue. While this still happens in BCCM, “newer charismatic churches are evidently organizing themselves on more inter-racial lines.”24 Interestingly, this evinces a concern over religious freedom in contemporary society rather than diminish non-Malay identity, therefore compared to the NCM, BCCM is less intent on countering the threat of Islam and on engaging in socio-political affairs but rather, can be seen as being more supportive of the government. Reaching the Marginalized For a long time, the ministry of BCCM was among the ethnic Chinese community, but outreach among indigenous tribes has been growing. In addition, the rising number of migrants and immigrants from neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India and others has led to the setting up of congregations that focus on these marginalized groups, e.g. Indonesian laborers. Ecumenical Partnerships 























































 22 Maria Perpetua Kana, “Christian Mission in Malaysia: Past Emphasis, Present Engagement and Future Possibilities” (MA. Diss., Australia Catholic University), 92. 23 Ackerman and Lee, Heaven in Transition (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 62. See also: Greg Barton, “Islam, Society, Politics and Change in Malaysia”, Jason F. Isaacson and Colin Rubenstein, eds., Islam in Asia: Changing Political Realities (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002). 24 Kana, “Christian Mission in Malaysia”, 73. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 11
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger The Malaysian Church has always forged unity through ecumenical establishments.25 The recent developments on the political front have intensified NECF’s efforts to mobilize churches to pray for God’s intervention.26 With that, BCCM has become increasingly involved in such partnerships, as the role that the Church plays nation-wide grows increasingly pivotal for the rising generation amidst recent political instability. 4. Summary Consultations on how different perspectives on biblical, systematic and practical theological matters are reshaping present-day Lutheran theology have been taking place. The desire to see transformation of its practices is escalating not only from the ‘laity’ but the ‘clergy’ as well. Bishop Right Reverend Dr Solomon Rajah, the new head of the ELCM, had recently said, “I not only want to serve the church, people and the Lord, I want to foster greater unity among Malaysians.”27 The Lutheran denomination as a whole recognizes the inevitable need to redefine its existence, “…The understanding of the mission of the church has undergone significant paradigm shifts in the experience and praxes of the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation…a holistic way as encompassing proclamation, advocacy, and service to the whole person and to all people…”28 Renewal Lutheran Church, one of the growing renewed churches within the Malaysian Lutheran denomination, says in its website, “One of the unique thrusts of our church is to reach out to mainline churches all over the world. Hence, we retain some of the identity of a mainline church.” Many of the younger pastors of Lutheran churches would have a similar thing to say. Rather than identifying themselves with the NCM, they would prefer to call themselves renewed Lutherans within the existing structure. What significance does this have to say, within the context of multireligious Malaysia, where the newer, younger churches affiliated with the NCM carry on the emerging church conversation, and further dialogue takes place between the Church and other faiths? In a time of unprecedented political and economical uncertainty, the role of the church in partnership with God in mission Dei has never taken on such heavy significance. Bosch speaks of the church in regards to its missionary paradigm, to rediscover its “integrally dialogical nature” in order to develop the interrelationship between mission and dialogue.29 And it is clear that although the NCM serves the purpose of boosting the integration of faith and praxis, as well 























































 25 One such establishment is the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS), started since 6 August 1983, which is committed to resolving inter-religious problems and making representations on religious matters. MCCBCHS was instrumental in the 2001 national debate over Malaysia’s status as an Islamic state. 26 “NECF Prayer Week – Concern for Recent Development in the Nation.” NECF Malaysia. 2002-2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from necf.org.my: http://www.necf.org.my/index.cfm?menuid=144 27 “Church Consecration of Bishop Solomon Rajah, ELCM.” Asia Lutheran Communion. 2009. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from asia-lutheran.org: http://www.asia-lutheran.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=293 28 The Lutheran World Federation, “Mission in Context: Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment,” The Lutheran World Federation (2004):60. 29 David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1990) 483, 487. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 12
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger as provide platforms for its members to engage with the larger community more effectively than BCCM or other denominational churches, that leaders of the Lutheran churches are looking at the same shifts in the nation and responding to similar needs. It is definite that the NCM will continue to spur spiritual dynamism amongst not only the young people but also those of the older generation, in its effort to bring holistic spirituality to the Malaysian community. It is this strength that BCCM would do well to emulate, or at least adjust, to better serve its members and those within the members’ spheres of influence. Because of the existing inter-denominational context within the multi-ethnic nation, boundaries of language and ethnicity may always present a problem. But the positive side to this is that the church is not unfamiliar with religious issues that cause tension, and may be more adept in conversing with those in authority, due to its good standing and reputable existence. BCCM has become prominent in Malaysian society, and this, coupled with an appreciation for the growth of NCM, can add leverage to the emerging church movement nation-wide. It is with this hope that pastors who are championing renewal within the Lutheran tradition press on: to see unity amidst diversity in Malaysia. Malaysia boleh! Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 13
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger 5. Bibliography BOOKS/JOURNALS Aageson, James; Jacobson, Arland; and Jacobson, Arland Dean. The Future of Lutheranism in a Global Context (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2008). Ackerman, Susan E. and Lee, Raymond L. M. Heaven in Transition (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990). ------------, Susan E. and Lee, Raymond L. M. Sacred Tensions: Modernity and Religious transformation in Malaysia (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1997). Barton, Greg. “Islam, Society, Politics and Change in Malaysia”, Jason F. Isaacson and Colin Rubenstein, eds., Islam in Asia: Changing Political Realities (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002). Bosch, David. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1990). Ismail, Rosnah. “Malaysia,” in The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Adolescence: A Historical and Cultural Survey of Young People Around the World, ed. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007). Kana, Maria Perpetua. “Christian Mission in Malaysia: Past Emphasis, Present Engagement and Future Possibilities” (MA. Diss., Australia Catholic University). Lutheran World Federation, The. “Mission in Context: Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment,” The Lutheran World Federation (2004). Myers, Glenn. The Rim of Fire: Indonesia and the Malay Speaking Muslim World (UK: OM Publishing, 1998), 56. Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Handouts, and How They Get You Through the Day (New York: Paragon House, 1989). INTERNET SOURCES (in oder of footnotes) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/my.html CIA - The World Factbook -- Malaysia (The World Factbook) http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/from-sivin-kit-malasyia From Sivin Kit (Malasyia) (Emergent Village Weblog) Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 14
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/19458-kelantan-sultan-saddened-by- split-among-muslims Kelantan Sultan saddened by split among Muslims (The Malaysian Insider) http://www.themicahmandate.org/ About Us (The Micah Mandate) http://thenutgraph.com/article-2334.html#comments Agitating Malay Muslims (The Nut Graph) http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/18970/84/ Freedom of Opinion and Speech in Islam: Your Sunday Sermon (Malaysia Today) http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/good-news/malaysian-court-frees-blogger- 20081107 Malaysian Court Frees Blogger (Amnesty International) http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=46821 A Sabah Youth Volunteer Corps (Daily Express) http://www.accordplan.net/press/20050831.htm#_Toc113449184 A Deadlier Syabu Yet (Counterdrug Press Summary) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basel_Christian_Church_of_Malaysia Basel Christian Church of Malaysia (Wikipedia) http://www.lutheranworld.org/News/LWI/EN/1005.EN.html LWF – News: 120 Years in Malaysia (The Lutheran World Federation) http://www.lutheranworld.org/What_We_Do/DMD/_Old_pages/DMD-Christian_Education.html Christian Education (The Lutheran World Federation) http://www.necf.org.my/index.cfm?menuid=144 NECF Prayer Week – Concern for Recent Development in the Nation (NECF Malaysia) http://www.asia-lutheran.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=293 Church Consecration of Bishop Solomon Rajah, ELCM (Asia Lutheran Communion) ONLINE DOCUMENTS Lee Kam Hing, Malaysia’s 12th General Elections: Changes and Continuities, 1 [document on- line]; available from http://www.cornerstone-msc.net/kairos/view_file.cfm?fileid=46; Internet; accessed 20 March 2009. LWF Asia, Asia Lutheran News, 2 [document on-line]; available from http://asia- lutheran.org/aln/03.ALN_May02.pdf; Internet; accessed 10 March 2009. CHURCH/ORGANIZATION WEBSITES Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 15
    • MC520 New Religious Movements Final Paper/Winter 2009 Ryan Bolger ACTS Church Malaysia - http://www.theactschurch.org/ City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur - http://www.chc.org.my/ SIB KL - http://www.sibkl.org.my/ Eaglepoint Covenant Fellowship - http://www.ecf.org.my/ Bangsar Lutheran Church - http://www.blc.net.my/ City Harvest Malaysia - http://www.cityharvest Bread of Life Kuala Lumpur - http://ga611bol.blogspot.com/ Basel Christian Church of Malaysia Chinese Congregation - http://www.geocities.com/bccmkk/ LiveWire media ministry network - http://www.livewiremedia.org/ws/ Malaysian Christian Songwriters’ Network - http://www.m-csn.com/ Mandat Mikha - http://www.micahmandate.org/ Revolution of Hope - http://rohmalaysia.net/ Kairos Research Centre Malaysia - http://kairos-malaysia.org/ Grace @ Work - http://www.graceatwork.org/ The Agora - http://theagora.blogspot.com/ Lutheran World Federation - http://www.lutheranworld.org/ Lutheran Church in Malaysia & Singapore: http://www.lcms.org.my/ Lutheran World Federation Youth Blog - http://lwfyouth.org/ ADDITIONAL REFERENCES Ackerman, Susan E. “Experimentation and Renewal Among Malaysian Christians: The Charismatic Movement in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya,” Southeast Asia Journal of Social Science, 12(1), 1984. (Sourced from: Study Centre for New Religious Movements, and Selly Oak Colleges. 1983. Turner collection on religious movements. 7-07-006 FICHE 061, Asia-South East, Malaysia. Wolverhampton, England: Advance Micrographics) Charney, Michael W.; Yeoh, Brenda S. A.; Tong Chee Kiong; Chee Kiong Tong. Chinese Migrants Abroad: Cultural, Educational, and Social Dimensions of the Chinese Diaspora (World Scientific, 2003). Hsiao, Andrew: A Brief History of the Chinese Lutheran Church (Hong Kong: Taosheng Publishing House, 1999). Ng Kam Weng. Doing the Right Thing: A Practical Guide On Legal Matters for Churches in Malaysia (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Kairos Research Centre, 2004) Northcott, Michael. “A Survey of the Rise of Charismatic Christianity in Malaysia,” Asia Journal of Theology, 4(1), April 1990. Janice Chin Study on a New Church Movement in Malaysia Alongside BCCM as a Mainline Lutheran Denomination 16