Taiwan Mennonite Church commits to renewal

News Service
November 9, 2010
 
Taipei, Taiwan – At their annual assembly held in Taipei October 31-November 3, pastors and delegates from Taiwan’s 21 Mennonite churches committed themselves to renewal in mission. Much of the gathering’s business built upon a special summit a year ago, when leaders evaluated the strengths and obstacles to growth of their conference, the Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan (FOMCIT).
           
The gathering, hosted at Taipei’s Adoration of Light Girls Middle School, opened with a communion service that drew upon the image of crushed grain and grapes to emphasize unity of believers. Sheldon Sawatzky, a former mission worker and now (since October 1) FOMCIT General Secretary, preached on the miraculous catch of fish recorded in Luke 5:1-11. He challenged the delegates to launch out into the deep water, to go to new places, to try new methods, to have a new attitude of humility and obedience to Christ’s command in mission. In response, the 50 delegates stood to their feet in an act of recommitment.
           
They then performed a “wishing tree” exercise promoted by the Mennonite World Conference in the World Fellowship Sunday materials for January 2011. On paper fruit and leaves, each wrote their wishes for an ideal church, then posted them on a poster image of a tree. Each delegate also selected a wish to pray for during the prayer times.
           
From small groups and plenary discussion, the group established goals and action steps for the next five years. The goals include the mounting of a website and prayer network; the development of discipleship materials from an Anabaptist perspective; the development of an Anabaptist study centre in cooperation with an existing seminary; the appointment of a new general secretary; the strengthening of the function of FOMCIT’s board of directors; and the planting of three new churches, beginning in southern Taiwan.
           
The delegates also adopted a mission statement based on Mennonite core values: "Based on Jesus Christ the foundation, build a community with a mission of love and peace." In keeping with the statement, FOMCIT”s theme for 2011 will be: "Be disciples of Jesus, proclaim the gospel of peace."
           
The assembly was grounded in inspirational input from members and visitors. Morning devotional messages set the tone for each day. Pastor Titus Liao spoke on new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and guest Samson Lo, director of multi-cultural ministries for Mennonite Church Canada, explored the theme of servant leadership.
           
Harold Lue, superintendent of the Taitung Christian Hospital and a Mennonite church elder, detailed vision and mission statement processes from the perspective of an organization.
           
On the closing day, Pastor Joshua Chang motivated the delegates through a presentation on successful Christian leadership. Fighting back tears, Chang confessed his failure to have a vision for his church. Making himself vulnerable on this point left a deep impression on many.

In the sharing session at the conclusion of the gathering, Pastor Chai Wanli said, “to see a pastor recognize his failure to have vision, and to then plead for vision through tears was the most moving moment of the conference.”
           
During the sharing time many delegates expressed what for them was the high point or of greatest significance during the assembly. “This was a different kind of meeting than in the past. It is an opportunity for breakthrough,” said one. “There are challenges, but we have talented persons to help us make a new beginning,” stated another.
           
The newest pastor, Jeremy Wang interjected, “Now we have a new vision, a new sense of direction into the future. There is hope for the church.”
           
The chair of the conference board of directors, Pastor David Lin, closed the conference with a message, again based on Luke story of the large catch of fish, emphasizing the importance of partners to help complete the task.
 
– From reports by Sheldon Sawatzky
 
SIDEBAR
The Taiwan church – building on recent history of independence
           
The shape of this year’s FOMCIT assembly flowed from the two top priorities established at last year’s summit (see main article): a comprehensive theological education program and the appointment of a new general secretary for the conference of churches, known as FOMCIT (Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan).
           
This past year, FOMCIT urged Sheldon Sawatzky, retired mission worker in Taiwan and former director for East Asia with Mennonite Mission Network., to return to Taiwan for a two-year assignment as General Secretary. He began his term October 1, with the mandate of developing the theological education program, and mentoring a successor.
           
The Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan, a member of the Mennonite World Conference, was founded in 1962, following the planting of eight churches beginning with Lin Shen Road Mennonite, in 1955. Today 21 churches in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung and Hualien include a total membership of 1,700.
           
FOMCIT operates two social service organizations in Hualien—the New Dawn Educational Institute (for mentally challenged persons) and the Good Shepherd Center (for abused women). Mennonite Christian Hospital in Hualien, the largest Mennonite hospital in the world, is also related to FOMCIT, which holds the majority of seats on the board.
           
The General Conference Mennonite Mission in Taiwan completed its work in Taiwan in 1994 after 40 years of service. FOMCIT plans to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2015.
 
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Photos by Sheldon Sawatzky available on request or for download (right-click to view or download):
1.      Elder Xiao Hui-Ying of the Zhong-He Mennonite Church in Taipei, sticks a fruit on the wishing tree. 
2.      Delegates at the FOMCIT annual conference discuss goals and priorities in breakout groups. 
3.      Pastor David Lin, chair of the conference board of directors, explains revisions to the conference structure.