The Journey of a Unified Christian Church
At this time, when our Formosan Grace Christian Church in Toronto is holding its inaugural congregational meeting in 2006, it is very important to recall the journey of our churches’ unification. In the evolving history of our churches, the year 2004-05 was a turning point and is worthy of special mention.
Worldwide, 2005 was a disastrous year in more ways than one. Newspapers used the “Unprecedented” headlines to describe the many disasters, natural or man-made. The day after the Christmas in 2004, the earthquakes in the Indian Ocean caused tsunami along its coasts drowning hundreds of thousands of people in an instant. At the end of August and the beginning of September, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the American south and the city of New Orleans was submerged in flood waters causing countless losses in lives and properties; The terrorists’ attacks on the London, England, subway system causing much loss of life; the earthquakes in India and Pakistan; and the widespread bird flu in Asian threatening the rest of the world. All of this bad news filled up the front pages of mass media for the entire year.
Turning inward to our small world, there was an unprecedented event happening among Taiwanese Christian churches of Toronto in 2005. The Formosan Church and the Taiwan Justice and Grace Church finally unified to form the Formosan Grace Christian Church in Toronto. This was great news. To our brothers and sisters of the Formosan Grace Church, this was a good year worthy of thanksgiving and gratitude.
Let’s review the recent events so that we can learn a lesson or two from them. Let’s recall the grace of God in our unification project. The new Church was the fruit of our prayers, and we celebrated the grace and blessing of our God. The Lord our God finally produced a miraculous thing among us.
When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The Lord did great things for them.” Indeed He did great things for us; how happy we were!
In reviewing the history of Taiwanese churches in Toronto, the wish for a united Taiwanese church was not a recent happenstance. For some 10 years, there had been much discussion surrounding the vision of a united church. But because of the God’s untimely plan and various difficulties confronting each of the churches, there had not been much action in this regard.
In recent years, the Taiwanese churches facing several global trends, including decreasing numbers of immigrants from Taiwan and the contraction of congregations in terms of membership and pastoral pool, most of us realized the importance of church unification. But because of many practical difficulties, many issues had to be resolved before next steps could be taken.
In 2003, a summer retreat with the theme of the Church Transformation was sponsored by the Formosan Church and co-sponsored by the Taiwan Justice and Grace Church, and held at Brock University. In the afternoon of the second day, there was a keynote speech on “the Vision and Prospect of the Church Unification” followed by group discussions. There was much discussion and consensus in the role of Toronto Taiwanese Christian Churches Association in continuing seeking feedback from its member churches. This prompted TTCCA into forming a Church Unification Task Force to explore various options of merger.
Since both the Formosan and the Justice and Grace churches were non-denominational, independent churches, the possibility of their merger into one was greater because of their similarities in congregational membership and church governance structure. If one started promoting the merger of these two churches, there was a higher likelihood of further progress. Therefore the Formosan and the Justice and Grace Churches reacted quickly and started planning for next steps. The two churches started sharing their vision of having a united Christian church in Toronto and holding ad-hoc prayer meetings for exchange of ideas. The governing boards of both churches, after deliberations, started organizing joint prayer meetings to be held at least monthly to gradually build up the consensus of the church unification.
During 2004, the planning activities concentrated on enhancing exchange of two churches’ programs. These included joint worship services for significant events of two churches, including the Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Mothers Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. In addition, the women fellowship and family worship were held jointly. All of these would promote the sharing of God’s grace by members of two churches in one God’s family.
The joint Sunday service started every other week and rotated between two churches. From September, 2004, the joint Sunday service was held weekly, and the two churches jointly ran one Sunday School, Youth and Career fellowship and one choir, all planned to move towards a unified church operation.
The opportunity finally knocked on the door! On the Lord’s Day on January 30, 2005, the two churches held simultaneously their congregational meetings and cast ballot on the motion to formally merge two churches as recommended jointly by the two Church Boards. Thanks to our Lord, the motion to merge was carried overwhelmingly by votes of 87 and 93 per cent at the two respective churches. The planning for church unification moved to the next phase, and a new joint church board was formed and empowered to carry out the merging of two churches.
On February 6, 2005, the two Churches elected a total of 14 members to form the unified Church Board (list attached), which then organized several task forces or subcommittees to carry out various components or functions required for the implementation of a newly unified church. The task forces included: the Church Constitution Subcommittee, which reviewed and harmonized the constitutions of the two churches for a new one; Location Reconnaissance Subcommittee, which reviewed various options for a new worship location. Other tasks involved coordination and harmonization of church operations including printing of weekly bulletins, accounting of weekly offering, etc; the adjustment and fine tuning of the Order of Sunday Service; the discussion and selection of a new name for the unified church; the selection of a new Church logo, etc.
Starting March 2005, the new Church moved to the former Justice and Grace Church on the Blythwood Road Baptist Church as a temporary quarter, and thus saving the annual rental fee of the former Formosan Church on the Glebe Road.
By the end of April 2005, the Church decided to adopt the name “Formosan Grace Christian Church in Toronto”, and applied to Canada Revenue Agency for a charity registration. The plan was to cease the operations of both the former Formosan Christian Church in Toronto, and the Taiwan Justice and Grace Christian Church in Toronto, after the registration was granted. (Thanks to the Lord, the new registration was completed on December 9, 2005.)
Prior to the adoption of a new constitution, two information sessions were held to present the draft constitution to members for their feedback. On May 20th, a special congregational meeting was held for the express purpose of adopting the new constitution for the new Church. On June 19th, the Formosan Grace Christian Church held a thanksgiving service to mark the inauguration of the new and united Christian Church. Over 230 guests from and outside Toronto joined in the celebration to acknowledge the God’s grace who finally accomplished the unification of His two churches in Toronto.
On Lord’s Day, October 30, 2005, the inaugural congregational meeting was held and a new slate of 11 Board members was elected in accordance with the new church constitution (list attached). On November 6th, the newly elected Board members were sworn in and began carrying out the united church’s affairs.
Thanks to the grace of God, and led by the Holy Spirit, the vision of a united church has been accomplished in formation of the new Formosan Grace Christian Church, which will let us prepare ourselves to move into the new twenty-first century. We need be more humble and to look up our God that after witnessing the birth of a new united church, we need to work together to spread His gospel, renew His church and move forward courageously, all to achieve the objective of church unification. Let’s expand our missionary work and nurture the faith of the new generations, all in the glory of our Lord.
Year 2005 had blessed our Formosan Grace Church. The concrete fact of a new and united Formosan Grace Church has been a marvellous testimony of God’s will, which allowed Taiwanese churches to willingly adjust themselves in the new situation as a starting point in the new century. We should not accept maintaining the status quo as the goal of our church unification, but recognize this to be a new challenge and a new goal toward which we redouble our effort and move faithfully. We now have a new church and a new will to expand the kingdom of God on earth. We can now more effectively utilize our resources and blessing and achieve much progress in our renewed mission.
2006 is a critical year for our Formosan Grace Church. We have three major objectives: recruit new pastors, plan for a new church building, and renew our church members’ faith in God. We need to reaffirm our consensus on the united church, and led by the God’s spirit, work together to establish His church in Toronto that will please Him.
The church is the body of Christ Jesus, so the Bible (Ephesians 4:15b-16) says: We must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
Formosan and the Justice and Grace Joint Church Board members (a total of 14 listed in the alphabetical order), effective February 6, 2005:
Cecil Chen, Sue Chen, Morgan Chiang, Robert Hsu, Peter Huang, Den-Yein Huang, Wen-Der Huang, Liang-Juh Lai, Sheng-Ping Lay, Simon Lin, Una Lin, Tomoki Ruo, Lucas Tai, Steve Yang
Formosan Grace Christian Church Board members (a total of 11 listed in the alphabetical order), elected October 30, 2005 and installed on December 18, 2005:
Cecil Chen, Sue Chen, Morgan Chiang, Robert Hsu, Peter Huang, Wen-Der Huang, Po-Wen Lee, Simon Lin, Una Lin, Tomoki Ruo, Lucas Tai