(Right) Bishop Bruce Ough of the Minnesota-Dakotas Episcopal Area, leads in prayer through the laying on of hands over one of the two pastors ordained as local elders for service in Vietnam. He is joined by (left to right) the Rev. Joyce Frye and Global Ministries missionaries serving in Vietnam, Karen and Ut To.
Local Elders in Mission Ordained for Service in Vietnam
By Melissa Hinnen*
A spirit of Pentecost swept through the small room in Bangkok’s Avana Hotel when two Vietnamese pastors were ordained as local elders in mission. Delegates from Vietnam, Thailand and the United States attended, praying and singing in their heart languages. “This is what Heaven must sound like!” declared Bishop Bruce Ough (Minnesota-Dakotas Episcopal Area), who presided over the service.
Ough is assigned to oversee the Vietnam, Laos and Thailand mission initiatives. The Vietnam Mission Initiative is one of several in Southeast Asia under the direction of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Regina Henderson, who leads the justice and relationships area of Global Ministries, is enthusiastic about the new pastors. She said, “I rejoice with gladness of heart as the church continues to raise up principled Christian leaders in Vietnam whom God has set apart for service and witness.”
The ordination took place in Thailand out of respect for the Vietnamese laws that do not yet recognize the United Methodist Church in Vietnam.
“There is concern by the government that the churches do not become westernized,” said Ough. “We are being intentional in equipping pastors to share the Gospel in ways that are shaped by the indigenous people.”
Missionaries Ut and Karen To, who are responsible for the United Methodist church growth in Vietnam, said that the pastors were touched by the service and appreciated Bishop Ough’s sermon about following the “foolishness of the cross” rather than the “wisdom of the world.”
The newly ordained clergy were presented with symbols of Service, Word, Sacrament and Order: “The Bible, containing God’s Word to be proclaimed, the bread and cup of Holy Communion, the bowl and towel of service, and the United Methodist Book of Discipline.”
A delegation from the West Ohio board of ordained ministry interviewed four candidates prior to ordination. Wade Griffin, who chairs the board, said that it was a difficult decision to approve only two of the four, but “it is critical that the ordained clergy for this new church build a strong foundation and this gives us confidence in the process.”
Myungim Kim is the Global Ministries executive for the South East Asia mission initiatives. She said that one of the candidates was not ordained because her role is similar to a deacon. “We currently do not have an order for that category in Vietnam,” she explained. “While she is not ordained, she is well equipped and will continue to be a strong minister in her community.”
Randy Shrauner is a pastor from the Oklahoma Conference who provides training to pastors serving in Vietnam. He affirmed the strength of the United Methodist Church in Vietnam as an indigenous church, “There is a passion for discipleship and evangelism that in many ways we, in the U.S., have lost. Their passion for Christ rekindles my own faith when I am here.”
Griffin echoed this, saying, “Where there are churches, there is sense of hope and a depth of spiritual reservoir that is not found in places where the church is easier to live.” He continued, “Visiting house churches in Vietnam is like walking through book of Acts.”
The Tos said they are thankful for the prayers and support of United Methodists, saying it “is vital to our ministry and to our life.” To support the United Methodist Mission Initiative in Vietnam, please give through Advance #14932A.
*Melissa Hinnen is the Director of Content and Public Information for Global Ministries.