Fergus Macdonald recently visited the World Reformed Fellowship in Indonesia. Below is his report from the conference.
General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship, Jakarta, 8-12 August
Last month 1,200 delegates gathered in the Reformed Millennium Centre, Indonesia, to participate in the fifth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship. The “Storming Seas” theme of the gathering reflected a focus on challenges from without and from within currently facing Reformed churches across the world. Participants included three from the Free Church: Jack and Nancy Whytock from Prince Edward Island and Dumisani, and Fergus Macdonald from Edinburgh. Andrew McGowan, of the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology, was the only other participant with Scottish connections.
The tone of the assembly was set at the opening session by Stephen Tong, pastor of the Messiah Cathedral in Jakarta, who affirmed the cultural mandate given by the Lord to the church to become the moral compass of society. On four mornings Ligon Duncan, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, spoke on countering Biblical Anaemia which is afflicting many evangelical and reformed churches in the West. He focused on the importance of the doctrine of Scripture, preaching, discipleship, and worship. ‘You cannot make a disciple without preaching,’ and ‘The more you love your people, the more they will accept your message’ are samples of his advice to preachers.
[Image: Reformed Millennium Cente, Indonesiar]
Other plenary speakers included Kathleen Neilson, formerly of the Gospel Coalition in the USA, who commended the great value of the Bible’s Wisdom literature. Biblical wisdom, she said, is kaleidoscopic. Peter Jones, formerly of Westminster Seminary California, presented a God-honouring view of sexuality in which he contrasted ‘Twoism’ (God distinct from his creation, and male distinct from female) with ‘Oneism,’ which regards creation as divine and gender as an unimportant human construct. Peter Jensen, former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, stressed the importance of getting theological education right, and Richard Pratt, of Third Millennium Ministries, spoke on “Engaging with the World without becoming like the World,” focusing on the Great Commandment.
[Image: R-L Jack Whytock, Fergus Macdonald and John McClean]
On two days four seminars took place, running simultaneously. The first day dealt with: Bible Study among women; sexuality in the context of creation cosmology; a Christian perspective on doing business in an Indonesia context; and responding to the spiritual condition of Europe. The second day’s seminars were on the need for full-blooded theological education; how the churches were responding to the Hong Kong riots; the significant role of Christians in Indonesian politics; and global challenges facing Christianity.
The last mentioned seminar was conducted by John McClean of Christ College in Sydney and Jack Whytock, with Fergus Macdonald as moderator. John McClean stressed the importance of prayer in facing today’s challenges to Christianity. Jack Whytock concentrated on the challenge presented by the prosperity gospel, offering both an analysis of its origins and an outline of biblical responses to it.
The assembly concluded with a worship service led jointly by Davi Charles Gomes, International Director of WRF, and Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Rob Norris, Chairman of the WRF Board, and Teaching Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Bethesda, Maryland.
The Reformed Millennium Centre in Jakarta is the home of the four to five thousand strong Messiah Cathedral founded and led by Stephen Tong. The cathedral proved to be a splendid host to the assembly, providing scores of volunteer helpers who cared for our material needs with great courtesy, high efficiency and infectious enthusiasm.