Archbishop Melter Jiki Tais, of the Church of the Province of South East Asia visited the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) in west London last week accompanied by his chaplain, the Revd Hilary Lalis. He commented that it was his last visit as Primate to the ACO and he updated staff about the work and mission of the churches in his province and his hopes and dreams for the future as he prepares to leave his post in January.
He spoke of the recent provincial gathering that took place in early November where people from across the province came together to fellowship. As Bishop of Sabah he was pleased to report that his diocese won the inter diocesan trophy challenge, an indoor sporting event that took place during the gathering.
The theme of the gathering was “Chosen for a purpose”. He said: “in spite of what is happening around the globe, we want to be concerned, but we cannot solve the problems of the world or be distracted from what the Lord has called us to do which is mission – the Great Commission and seeing the fruits properly discipled, baptised and planting churches.”
The Church exists in a Muslim-majority country, yet it has experienced spiritual renewal and has sent out its own mission partners to various parts of the world. Since becoming Diocesan Bishop of Sabah in 2015, 16 new churches have been dedicated and consecrated and there will be two more by the time he leaves. The average church attendance is between 1200 to 3000. “My mission is to encourage my clergy and together with them fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord,” said Archbishop Melter.
In response, Bishop Anthony Poggo, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, thanked him for the Church of the Province of South East Asia’s consistency in supporting and giving to the Anglican Communion. He added, “Your focus on mission is encouraging. What you say, you put into practice. I have not heard of a bishop who is also a parish priest.”
The floor was then open to questions from staff. Who are the typical people coming to Christ? “They are people from the rural areas and indigenous people. We are also doing mission among the immigrant communities from Indonesia and Philippines. We provide education to their children and I have confirmed quite a number of Filipinos who have come to know Christ. For me this is a great joy!” he responded.
When asked how close country-wide missionary deaneries in other parts of South East Asia were to becoming dioceses, he predicted that it was likely there would be a diocese in Indonesia before the other countries such as Thailand because a lot of churches have been planted in Indonesia.
Archbishop Melter explained the importance of transformed lives, not only individuals, but families when asked about the rise in domestic violence in Sabah and how the church teaches new disciples. He said: “our discipleship happens with transformation of life. We are encouraging personal relationships with Christ. Transformation of life is not just personal but includes the family and we should be impacting lives.”
He spoke about the importance of providing good education through the private schools owned by the Province and the alternative schools for migrant families. He said: “we are letting our lives be a good testimony to the children and community.” Most of the staff are clergy.
In response to the question about plans for Christmas he said: “Sabah Council of Churches collaborates with the state government who is very favourable to us in providing money to organise Christmas events.” For four nights, from 12 to 15 December, there is carol singing, fun activities for the children, who also take part in a Christmas play. “It is all a public testimony. Our church members and the public can set up their food stalls. Last year there were three hundred. It gives people the opportunity to make money. I deliver my Christmas message emphasising the virtues of Christ. Unity in harmony won’t happen if we don’t have love,” he said. There are many services which include children and adults, “no one is sidelined,” said Archbishop Melter.
There is a tradition that on 30 December, an open house is held at Bishop’s House. Archbishop Melter has continued this tradition and instead of hosting it at his house he hosts it in various places across the diocese.
Archbishop Melter had two prayer requests at the end of the session. Firstly, to pray that he doesn’t lose his vision for mission and church planting. Secondly, to pray for his successor, the Bishop of Singapore, the Right Reverend Dr Titus Chung.