One of the outcomes of our recent Annual Meeting of the Presbytery and Synod of the Uniting Church in WA was the commitment to continue our partnership with the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI).
The partnership began over two decades ago and has led to the growth of the GKI Perth Uniting Church congregation in Mosman Park and a special Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that points to various ways we can co-operate and learn from each other.
Rosemary Hudson-Miller, acting general Secretary of the Uniting Church in WA, and I, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA, were very privileged to be able to visit Indonesia in September to attend the GKI West Java Synod and sign the MOU. This was a tremendous privilege and richly rewarding for us. We were able to witness a church that is growing and dynamic in many areas of its life.
We stayed in the climatically cool Zuri Resort and Convention Center, owned by GKI, about three hours out of Jakarta, near Bogor in the mountains. It was very special being part of their synod meetings. About 270 members attended from eight presbyteries across West Java.
During the meetings – which were of course conducted in Indonesian – we learnt about the blessings and challenges facing this young church. In one report, three indicators of church health were graphically indicated on several charts. No language skills were required to understand that the church’s offerings, baptisms and participation graphs all showed a continuous upward growth. We also appreciated their worship, delicious food and beautiful batik shirts and dresses.
While in Jakarta we stayed in a hotel just across the road from the church’s university, University Krida Wacana, founded in 1967. Over 5000 students attend. This university, which the church operates, has an excellent reputation and a first class medicine faculty. GKI also has a very strong theological college with several hundred students; the average age of their ordinants (students proceeding to ordination) is between 25-30 years. As you can imagine, that means there is a high percentage of young ministers, female and male, serving Christ and the community – something I dream about.
We learnt that many GKI churches are large; one young woman pastor apologetically told me that she had only 800 members in her congregation. We were also very impressed by their schools. BPK, the church body overseeing the church schools, told us that there are over 130 of them, with a projection that they will have over 150 schools by 2015. The schools are low fee with a special emphasis on providing education for the poor. The challenge to maintain the quality of the school with a low fee structure is ever before them. As the church has grown in size and resources they are rethinking how their resources can best serve the mission of the church – something we in the Uniting Church are also struggling to do.
In many ways it was very humbling to be with the GKI brothers and sisters and to learn that alongside their growth, faithfulness and vitality, they also occasionally face opposition in a country that is predominantly Muslim. Their commitment to share the love of Christ with all people was very obvious. The MOU we signed encourages us to explore ministry exchanges, aged care learnings, theological education, justice issues (especially refugees) and many ways of partnering in the gospel of Christ. We are very blessed and privileged to share in such a rich and rewarding partnership.
Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA