SG 50 has stimulated and seen considerable celebrations for both country and church. The JDOP on Sunday 5 July was indeed a high point for Christians in Singapore. We can never thank and praise the Lord adequately for His abundant blessings these past 50 years when church growth has paralleled national development. We, in PSPC, have been very much part of, at least the beneficiaries of, both.
Having ourselves celebrated our 170th church anniversary recently in 2013, we are undoubtedly also thankful for much of our past history. We certainly had a great start. Rev Benjamin Keasberry’s contributions, example and life were legendary. Equally noteworthy was the work of our early Elders with stalwarts like Sir Ong Siang Song.
Less known was the period when PSPC, like many other denominational churches in Singapore, came under the influence of liberal theology and the usual resulting nominal Christianity that followed. The initial influence and impact may have appeared innocuous and inconsequential. However, with time this liberal theology took its toll on the life of the church. Over the years, many fellow Christians and I have seen the barrenness of such liberal, nominal and even compromising Christianity.
Even as a young teenager, I recall hearing a prominent Singaporean ordained minister holding up a Bible in his hand and proclaiming: “Genesis is all fairy tale, at best a legend”. I must say that in those days quite a few of us, including myself to a certain extent, were quite impressed by him. This was a clear case where man, using his so-called intellectual superiority, judges the Bible instead of allowing the Bible to judge us. Some pastors even felt that “hell” was not a reality as they deemed that this was incompatible with a loving God. This sad state was the result of not accepting the Bible as the authoritative and inspired Word of God, completely trustworthy to sufficiently reveal God, man’s sinful nature and the salvation and sanctification God has provided for us in Christ.
It was about this time that missionaries were driven out of China in the communist takeover of that great nation. Numbered among these were members of the China Inland Mission (CIM), the well-known organisation founded by Hudson Taylor. These missionaries were outstanding Christians who loved and obeyed the Lord and His Word – the Bible, very much like the early Christians of the New Testament, those in the Reformation era and even our early Presbyterian forebears during the days of John Calvin and John Knox. In God’s sovereignty, these persecuted CIM missionaries were scattered all over the rest of Asia to witness and work in places where they had not been to previously. Aptly, the CIM was renamed the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF).
During those days, I was quite oblivious of the CIM-OMF and indeed all things Christian that were Bible-based except for the occasional mentioning of the OMF by a godly granduncle who was from the Brethren Assembly. I have shared previously how the Lord used our days in Australia to turn the Christian life of many of us overseas students into a Bible-based one. We were helped in our spiritual life and growth by many members of the CIM-OMF who had retired or on home leave (e.g. Eric Norgate, Alan Cole, Alan Webb, David Hayman). On our return to Singapore in the early 60’s, we (including many former leaders and members of the OCF, the Overseas Christian Fellowship) naturally received great fellowship and help from the OMF folks here where Singapore had also been made their International HQ.
Although these were great spiritual giants, their leaders, like J.O. Saunders, Arnold Lea, Mike Griffiths and David Adeney, even were prepared to discuss serious and challenging issues with us, young “punks”, often accepting our views and suggestions like opening the OMF to Asians, formation of Home Councils in Asia and setting up the Discipleship Training Centre (DTC) here. It was a spiritual lesson, indeed an overwhelming experience to see such humility, openness and servant spirit. In turn and wonderfully, the very first Asian OMFer, Rev Dr John Euan Kim (a Korean), helped PSPC as our very first 100% committed Evangelical member of the Pastoral Team. This was followed by Rev Dr Bong Ring Ro, 2nd Asian OMFer and also a Korean, who helped us honorary (part-time), while serving theological education in Asia. We then had another OMFer, Rev Doug Anderson as our very first full-time Evangelical Minister (Moderator). In a wonderful reciprocal relationship, I had the opportunity of serving on the very first Home Council of the OMF in Singapore and in working with OMFers in many projects and programmes in Singapore. We had for example OMFer Leslie Duncan as Council Member and later Book Room Manager of the Scripture Union in Singapore. Others like Beryl Ecksteen and Harry Cotter followed. In both my personal walk and service though church and para-church work, I was encouraged by other spiritual giants like Paul Contento, Chris Ellison, Dennis Lane, Arthur Sanders, Lucille Ramish, the Dunn brothers, David Huntley, Dorothy Marx,, Eileen Kuhn, Alan Catchpole and Keith Hinton. PSPC was blessed with many OMFers (including their highly dedicated medical doctors e.g. Monica Hogben, Grace Pettigrew, Stroma Beattie) as regular worshippers, members and ready and willing helpers. Rev Stuart and Faith Imbach made a great impact in both PSPC and the pioneering days of ARPC. Other OMFers seconded as our Ministers include Rev Donald Brooks and Rev Ridge Orr. Still, others like Rev Warren Beattie inspired us with their commitment to prayer and the Word. In sharing and testifying regarding these spiritual giants, mention must also be made of their godly spouses. In fact, another lasting impact for us was to see the family life of such godly servants of the Lord.
Coincidentally, 2015 also marks the 150th anniversary of the CIM-OMF and the 50th anniversary of its Singapore Home Council. As we celebrate with them, we also give thanks and praise to God for what OMF has meant to and done for Singapore and PSPC. Coincidentally, also on this very day, the 3rd Sunday of our Missions Month, we have as speaker, Daniel Wong, the Singapore Home Director. As we welcome and thank Daniel, we say “TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY” and may we be mindful that “to whom much is given from them much is expected”.