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The Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS) and the Local Churches
By Rev Tan Cheng Huat - General Secretary
Oct 2015

Many of us today did not grow up in Presbyterian families and many more, perhaps a majority of Presbyterians in Singapore today, had come from other Christian denominations. We belong to a local Presbyterian Church for a whole range of reasons – someone from the church helped us in times of crisis, we came across many like-minded people, we wanted a place to serve, etc. Yet very often, our members are frequently ignorant about the specific history and nature of the Presbyterian Church. It is good therefore for our leadership to ask about the religious pilgrimage of Presbyterians amongst us in the local church. You will find the results fascinating.

The Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS) was established by missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS) who, out of their love for God, came to Singapore as far back as 1829. Besides preaching the Gospel, they were also involved with education, medical works and social services, meeting both the physical and the spiritual needs of our society. Today, PCS is blessed with 36 churches, 5 schools, and a network of 23 community service centres across the island. Retracing our historical roots, the local church was established before the Synod. In 1843, LMS appointed Rev Benjamin Keasbury as missionary to the Malays and established a Malay Chapel (today known as Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church); in 1856, a Scottish Presbyterian, Rev Thomas Mckenzie Fraser established a mission chapel in Bras Basah Road under the name “The Presbyterian Church in Singapore”; and in 1878 a new church was built in Orchard Road (today known as Orchard Road Presbyterian Church). In 1881 on the arrival of J A Cook as missionary to the Chinese, the following churches were established:

  1. Glory Presbyterian Church (1881)
  2. Singapore Life Church (1883)
  3. Bethel Presbyterian Church (1883)
According to our records, the first Synod meeting was held on 17 January 1901 at the residence of Rev J A Cook at 1 Gilstead Road, and in 1975 because of the political separation of Singapore and Malaysia, two Synods were formed. The Singapore Church became “The Presbyterian Church in Singapore”. Rev Dr Stephen Tan was elected as the first Moderator of the Singapore Synod and on 13 September 1986, he was installed as the first General Secretary. The Structure of The Presbyterian Church in Singapore is as follows:


The Presbyterian Church in Singapore Structure

The role of the local church in relations to the Synod is engrafted according to the Local Church Constitution Article 4 – Membership of The Presbyterian church in Singapore. Our Presbyterian Polity is an instrument for unity within the denomination. This unity within the denomination is in the established procedures (e.g. the Constitution, the MOU), which we have agreed in advance to accept, each individual church nominates leaders to represent church members at the Synod. There are many formal and informal ways in which we unite with one another. All our local churches may have their own uniqueness of character and ministries, strengths and weaknesses. I believe at this time in the history of our 135 years of witnessing the grace of God, it is particularly important for us to recognize our common ground as we face a whole world of complicated issues, many of which are contrary to our faith and beliefs. This is an exciting and challenging time even in the midst of our differences from which we seek to go forward in mission and in ministry.

On 21 July 2013, each Senior Minister of the church in Singapore, the Session Clerk and the Treasurer represented their church and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The Presbyterian Church in Singapore. An extract of the pledge is reproduced below:

  1. We promise to adhere to The Presbyterian Church in Singapore Constitution and agree without prejudice that Article 1.3, Article 2 and Article 3 (refer Annex A) are non-negotiable.
  2. We affirm the unity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ and will strive together so that God’s love, justice, peace and salvation may be demonstrated in Singapore and beyond.
  3. We promise to uphold, support and co-operate in mutual partnership in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, so that all people can come to accept the love and salvation of God.
  4. We promise to pray regularly for, cooperate sincerely in, and contribute constructively to the fulfilment of the Great Commission for the greater glory and honour of God and the well-being of His people.
This agreement shall remain valid until your church violates the non-negotiable doctrines and practices of PCS and will therefore cease to be a member church of The Presbyterian Church in Singapore.

It has been said that the Church is not being prophetic enough. To be prophetic is not simply to be negative, critical, or just loud. To be prophetic is not making radical noises. The Church is to be itself: that is, to live differently, to form intelligent prayerful public opinion within its own membership, and then to move into the risks of argument. The prophetic and political calling of the Church requires Christians also to be, in some degree, contemplative and ask "What does God require?", and answer simply, Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God." Or simply "Love God, love others." A prophetic voice is one that will settle for nothing less than holiness of heart and life as the result of faithful obedience to the voice of God. This is what The Presbyterian Church and the local churches are called to be – "Be Christ to the World".




 
 




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