Unity in Cambodia
Asian Access Contributes to Uniting the Cambodian Church
Last November, Asian Access graduated its first class of participants in Cambodia. These new graduates have bonded with one another over the last two years. Despite denominational differences, they have planned several joint activities across Cambodia in an effort to build unity.
Even though the fledgling Church is essentially just 15 years old, it's surprising how much denominationalism pervades the thinking. Much of this 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 8 Asian Access quarterly sessions, groups were sitting by denomination. There wasn't a lot of talking between these segments. However, by the time I visited Session 3, I was amazed how many walls had apparently broken down. I couldn't have imagined that what the director told me was true, namely that Sessions 1 and 2 were a bit chilly before they started to warm up to each other.
Something happened to help the thaw. The pastors' spouses were all invited to the third session. The topics at that session were "Worship" and "Christ and Culture." During breaks, all 12 participants, their spouses, and the faculty were chatting over coffee together or playing volleyball as one big group.
Even by the last day of Session 3, there was talk of doing something on a large-scale. . . together. Now that the group has completed all 8 sessions, they're ready to bring their churches together.
One event is a city-wide Christmas Celebration in the capital city of Phnom Penh, planned for later this year. Twelve churches are set to hold 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 is a joint baptism service. In recent years, denominational differences would have created tension, especially in terms of baptismal mode. However, these pastors have resolved not to allow these theological differences get in the way. In fact, believers wanting to be baptized will follow the mode of baptism prescribed by his or her pastor.
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 may be held during the Christmas service.
Not Limited to Cambodia
This spirit of unity has been seen in other places across Asia, especially in classes of Asian Access pastors. In each of the countries Asian Access has conducted its leadership development program, each class has contributed to a spirit of unity among the church in their given country.