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Announcement FROM JOE HANDLEY...

New Announcement from Joe Handley

Asian Access Contributes to Uniting the Cambodian Church

Cambodian pastorsPhnom Penh, CAMBODIA (A2) — When Asian Access graduated its first class of participants in Cambodia, it was clear that the new graduates had bonded with one another over the two-year program. Despite denominational differences, graduates excitedly planned several joint activities across Cambodia in an effort to build unity.

Even though the fledgling Church in Cambodia is essentially just a couple decades old, it's surprising how much denominationalism pervades the thinking. Unfortunately, much of this proprietary thinking was brought by well-meaning groups setting up ministries in Cambodia in the early years.


Warming up after an early chill

When all the pastors gathered for the first of eight (8) Asian Access quarterly sessions, groups were sitting in groups according to their denomination. There were Baptists, Presbyterians, Mainline folks, and Pentecostals all in different cliques. There wasn't much interaction between these segments.

Rady and Pastor Meng Aun Hour, national director of Asian Access/ Cambodia (photo: Joshua Clayton)

However, by the time I visited during Session 3, I was astonished how many walls had apparently broken down. I couldn't have imagined that what Meng Aun Hour, A2/Cambodia national director told me was true, namely that Sessions 1 and 2 were a bit chilly before they started to warm up to each other.

Why the thaw? There were two contributing factors, in my opinion:

1) Transformational Process: A2's commitment to a transformational process, where participants meet every few months over a two year span helps to break down the walls that divide. They drop the pastor titles and share their lives with one another; they literally become a band of brothers.

2) Including the Pastors' Wives: The pastors' spouses were all invited to the third session. The topics at that session were "Worship" and "Christ and Culture," which provided opportunity for them to share in this learning community that was impacting their husbands. During session breaks, all 12 participants, their spouses, and the faculty were chatting over coffee and processing the teaching together; very few were on their cell phones, mind you. During sports time, I watched in amazement as the entire group played volleyball on the beach, laughing heartily the whole time.

Even by the last day of Session 3, there was talk of doing something on a large-scale. . . together. When the class completed all 8 sessions one year later, they were now ready to bring their churches together.


Christmas celebration

One such event was a city-wide Christmas Celebration in the capital city of Phnom Penh, planned for that December. Twelve churches held the service together at a large hotel in the city.

All 12 graduates of the leadership training program pastor churches in Phnom Penh. Of course, geographical proximity facilitates the collaboration of events like this.



Another event was a joint baptism service. In recent years, denominational differences would have created tension, especially in terms of baptismal mode. However, these pastors had resolved not to allow these theological or methodological differences get in the way. In fact, believers wanting to be baptized followed the mode of baptism prescribed by his or her pastor.Those who attended felt a sense of belonging to the larger movement of God throughout the last 2,000 years of church history.
One pastor from Phnom Penh said:

There is much anticipation for what will result from these kinds of shared events. We sense God is uniting our young national church through mutual respect and cooperation.

This does not mean that each leader or church for that matter needs to compromise theological convictions. However, the emphasis is on uniting as believers to worship God and carry out his sacraments. A corporate communion service was also held during the Christmas service.


United Pastors Fellowship

Pastor Meng Aun Hour then started a pastors fellowship to bring more unity across the national Church, not simply among A2 alumni pastors. The monthly meeting consists of a speaker sharing with the pastors and concludes with earnest prayer for God's work throughout Cambodia.


Not Limited to Cambodia

The more I travel, the more I am seeing this spirit of unity growing across Asia, especially in classes of Asian Access pastors. In each of the countries Asian Access has conducted its leader development program, graduating classes have contributed to a spirit of unity among the church in their given country. God is at work in the Church in Asia, and Asian Access is humbled to play just a small part in His greater reconciliation.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (John 17:20-23 ESV)

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