Reformed leaders visit north-east Asia churches

Leaders of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) have completed a three-week pastoral visit to Northeast Asia, calling it an important time of listening to a significant branch of the Reformed family.

“It was a blessing and a privilege to hear of the witness of these churches and other Reformed organizations, who are sometimes ministering under difficult circumstances,” said Setri Nyomi, WARC’s general secretary, who visited the region together with WARC president Clifton Kirkpatrick.

“Reformed churches throughout Northeast Asia are engaged in the vital mission of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways," added Nyomi. "President Clifton Kirkpatrick and I were moved by the contribution they are making to the growth of the church, the cause of justice and the move towards Christian unity.”

The two WARC leaders visited the China Christian Council, the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, the Church of Christ in Japan, the Korean Christian Church in Japan, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the Presbyterian Church in Korea - Daeshin.

Nyomi and Kirkpatrick visited the Nanjing Theological Seminary, worshipped in a local congregation and met with Gao Yong, president of the seminary, who outlined the challenges and plans for a new campus.

In Shanghai the WARC delegation was met by the president of the China Christian Council Gao Feng, where discussions centred on the fast pace of growth of the church and the theological contributions of the church in China to the ecumenical movement.

“There is so much to thank God for in the growth of the church, including the way the council’s leadership has fostered the growth,” Nyomi said.

The WARC leaders met with young members of the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China and were impressed with their vision as well as the training provided by the church. Kirkpatrick and Nyomi also held discussions with pastors and lay leaders on the relevance of John Calvin for today.

“The church is making a difference in the lives of the people of Hong Kong,” Nyomi said.

Nyomi said it was evident during the visits with the two Japanese churches and their theological schools that while they are small organizations they have made considerable impact on the society at large.

The WARC leaders arrived in Taiwan immediately following the visit of Chen Yu-Lin, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, and 60 delegates from China, which prompted student protests and the assembling of security forces reminiscent of those created earlier under martial law. The church urged the WARC leaders and member churches to continue to pray for them as they witness amid such tensions and priorities.

Nyomi and Kirkpatrick met the leaders of the Korean churches and preached at Sunday services, expressing their thanks for the ways in which the churches were engaged in mission in the many Korean communities.

Kirkpatrick addressed the Northeast Asia Area Council of WARC in Seoul, challenging participants to use the Calvin Jubilee in 2009 as a time to focus on justice and embrace the Christian unity the reformer cherished.