Statement to the NBC Church AGM regarding the Chinese Congregation Issues
11 April 2018
I am sure that most, if not all of us are aware that our Chinese congregation has faced some very turbulent times over the past 8 months. Not all of us are aware of exactly what happened, particularly those of us from the English congregation, and I don’t want to go into a lot of details about this, but I do want to make some comments about it, and then declare a way forward. We are after all, all members of the one church and so we need to walk this journey together.
The major issues surfaced around the middle of last year when questions and concerns were brought to the elders by some members of the Chinese congregation. A number of allegations were made at that time, mainlycentered around how decisions were being made by the Chinese Pastors and leadership. The elders investigated these concerns and allegations, doing their best to try and understand the situation and trying to bring some resolution to this. When it became apparent that it needed some outside independent help, the decision was made to invite Steve Davis, head of Ethnic Ministries for the Baptist Union to lead a group to investigate the matter. It was hoped that this process, led by Steve Davis and Murray Cottle (also from the Baptist Union), might bring the matter to a close, but not everyone was happy with the outcome. It was around this time that I arrived at NBC, and for these past three months or so, have tried to understand the situation by taking the time to listen to many different voices.
You will be aware that as a result of these issues, the two Chinese elders, Grace Gao & John Wood both resigned their positions, and stopped attending the afternoon congregation, and a little later the Associate Pastor Yongjun Dong also took extended annual leave. Some members at that time also stopped attending the afternoon congregation, and some started attending the morning.
While it is painful to revisit it again, we need to first of all acknowledge the past. We need to acknowledge that mistakes were made by everyone. Nobody is perfect! Well, I know that I am not. And I am sure that none of us here is either! We need to acknowledge that the whole process wasn’t dealt with as well as we might have liked. The elders have certainly acknowledged that. Everyone did what they thought was right, and did their best, but mistakes were made. But we also need to acknowledge and declare that we don’t want to remain in that past anymore.
It is my belief that despite all the best efforts by everyone, that we are now at a point where we simply need to move on. Someone once said “We cannot change the past, but we can reshape the future”. We cannot change the past, but we don’t have to stay there. I believe our future can be different from our past. As your Senior Pastor, I now want to take responsibility to help guide the church forward to a place of unity, healing & peace and I want to say that it is now time to put the past behind us.
As a way of moving forward, the Elders and I are giving our full support to Pastor Jack. We recognize that it will take some time to heal, but as part of the way of moving forward, I am calling everyone to put aside their differences, find it in their hearts to offer forgiveness to one another, and move ahead together. We are after all, better together. I understand that this process of reconciliation will not be easy, but with God’s help, I believe it is possible to bring unity and peace again to this congregation, and for God to bless Northcote Baptist Church.
I know that this has been a difficult time for NBC. Everyone has been hurt in some way by this. NBC has been hurt. But in order for us all to move forward together, with respect and dignity, I am asking for us now to look forward rather than look backwards. I know that there has been much talk – especially negative talk. I want now to ask that that negative talk about people, or about the Pastors or about the elders, or about the church to stop. If we love NBC, and I am sure that we all do – that’s why we are here, because we love this church, then we need to show it by the way we talk about it, and how we talk about the people in it. The Bible clearly states in many places about the need to use our words to build up rather than to pull down. When we use words to spread gossip, or to hurt or to pull others down, it is unchristianbehavior. 1 John 2:6 “Anyone who says they are a Christian should live as Jesus did”.
I also want to add that conflict in church is not unusual. Just as conflict in marriage is not unusual. It is to be expected. When I do pre-marriage counseling with couples before I take their wedding ceremony, we talk about conflict. I tell them to expect that conflict will happen. Its not unusual, and its not bad! But it is how conflict is dealt with that will be the key to whether it is destructive or whether it can be opportunity for growth. Conflict in marriage is inevitable because two people with all sorts of differences are going to live together. Multiply that out into a church setting, where there are many many different people coming together – all with different thoughts, ideas and opinions, and it is inevitable that conflict will take place. The Bible recognizes this, and there are many places in scripture that guide us in terms of how to deal with conflict. Working with the elders, I intend to put in place a process of conflict resolution for the whole church, to deal with any future concerns or differences of opinion, so that these can be dealt with in a fair and respectful manner. This will be something I will take responsibility to put into place.
As your Senior Pastor, I am taking full responsibility for ensuring that Northcote Baptist Church is a place where everyone is welcome, where everyone is treated fairly with respect and dignity, and where everything is done to the glory of God.
One further thing I need to also update you on. As we have already acknowledged, the two Chinese elders, John Wood and Grace Gao have stepped down from their role. They have served this church for a very long time, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their 28+ years of service at NBC. Many of you will be wondering about Pastor Yongjun Dong. I have spent a great deal of time talking with Pastor Yongjun, and while it was his desire to continue to stay on at NBC, he has made the decision to resign from his position as Associate Pastor and the elders have reluctantly accepted his resignation. We want to pray that God would clearly reveal his will for Pastor Yongjun for the future. We are grateful for the many years that he has served the Chinese congregation.
Finally, I want to remind you that the same unconditional love that God gives to you, you are to offer to everybody else that you come in contact with. Unconditional love.It’s not an option or a suggestion. It’s a command! “Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34). And so, I want to call each of us to work together towards our NBC vision of “loving God, loving each other, loving the community”.
I am not asking for questions or comments. This is a statement, not a proposal from me as your Senior Pastor. But I do want to ask you to pray, to pray for our Pastors, for our Elders and for our leaders. Please continue to pray that God would bring our leadership together in unity, and that the Holy Spirit would guide and lead us into a good future together.