November 26, 2010
The International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) recently engaged representatives of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) in discussion over the latter’s role in national life.
During his visit here, the Reverend Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe had met NCCS leaders Tuesday for lunch. It was the Rev. Tunnicliffe’s first visit to Singapore as WEA International Director. The lunch was hosted by the NCCS.
There was discussion on a ‘very’ wide range of issues at the lunch. NCCS General Secretary Lim K Tham highlighted this Thursday in response to media queries.
The Rev. Tunnicliffe “was interested to know more about the role of the Council in national life,” he expressed.
WEA and NCCS leaders talked about “the challenge of speaking out for the Church in the public square,” Mr Lim highlighted.
As an umbrella Protestant church body, the NCCS has made a number of written responses to government policies on various issues. They include stem cell research and human tissue and organ donation and transplant.
In a 2010 book written for the NCCS, the church body highlighted the importance in public dialogue of ‘persuading’ the public.
The church can do this by being willing to use more publicly accessible reasons to persuade the public to adopt its propositions. This is as opposed to using religiously grounded reasons.
Author theologian Roland Chia highlighted the need to distinguish between the basis and foundation for a position and the presentation of that position in the context of public dialogue.
“There can be no question that Christian positions in bioethics must be thought through theologically, using both Scripture and tradition as resources, since they provide the substance and parameter for theological reflection,” Dr Chia wrote. His book addresses subject of bioethics.
The church can introduce the traditional symbols of the Christian faith in the presentations of its positions in public discussions, he noted. Yet “it must also recognise that at times, appeal to theological views or religious symbols may not be very persuasive in a secular or pluralistic context,” he added.
“Public theology, it must be remembered, has to do with the politics of persuasion,” said Dr Chia.
At the lunch, NCCS leaders also highlighted its “participation in inter-faith dialogues,” Mr Lim added.
In this respect, NCCS leaders pointed out “how we have reached an understanding with the other faiths that the harmony we sought is not the harmony of religions.” Instead, it is “the harmony of Singaporeans living in peace,” he noted.
On his part, the WEA leader “offered to share the public statements that WEA releases from time to time with the Council,” Mr Lim said.
NCCS leaders who attended the meeting comprised President Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, Mr Mark Sng and Mr Lim.
Tunnicliffe was in town for a two-day visit.
The Christian Post understands that the Rev. Tunnicliffe’s Singapore visit was exploratory in nature.
He met with the board of the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS) to learn about developments in its work. The EFOS is WEA’s national alliance in Singapore.
The Rev. Tunnicliffe also met with the leadership of the NCCS. The purpose of the meeting was to learn of developments in the Singapore church. Another aim was to learn of how the Singapore church is engaging global issues and to explore ways to further this engagement.
The WEA represents some 600 million evangelicals in 128 nations worldwide.
NCCS represents major Christian denominations and churches in Singapore.