Pastor Rony Tan: towards a loving and respectful witness

rony tanThe Ministry of Home Affairs issued the following statement to the press:

The Internal Security Department (ISD) has called up Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism (LE) today in connection with his comments and insinuations about Buddhism and Taoism at LE sessions. These sessions were video-recorded and made available on LE’s website; video clips of these sessions subsequently became available on YouTube and other websites.

Pastor Tan’s comments were highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists. They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities. The ISD told Pastor Tan that in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.”

Rony Tan responded with a public contrite apology to all Buddhists for his insensitivity:

“I have received a number of emails from people who have been saddened and hurt by the testimonies of an ex-monk and an ex-nun. I realized that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again. When we have received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well. After reading the frank views from those emails, I was also prompted to tell my members not only to continue to love souls, but also to respect other belief and not to ridicule them in any way, shape or fashion. Let’s put our goal to build a harmonious Singapore a top priority.“

Preachers of the past

Elijah mocked the Baal of the prophets in the payroll of Jezebel. The Old Testament prophets made derogatory remarks about idols and other gods. And even Paul spoke of “worthless” idols. What are we to do? Are we living in a different environment? Would these prophets have said in Singapore church pulpits, the same things they had said in their historical cultural context?

Church generally guilty

Perhaps the whole church need to also issue a blanket apology for all the insensitive remarks that Christians in Singapore have generally  been guilty of.  I have watched the video and I think some of the making light of beliefs (presumed to be Buddhist,) is not uncommon in the thinking of many Christians, if not in their speech. I plead guilty too. We do need to be more respectful of people whose religious beliefs we disagree with, however mistaken in our eyes they may seem to be. We should respect them as though they are a future mother in law with strong religious belief different from ours. 🙂

Pruning for greater fruitfulness

When one member of the Body of Christ suffers, let us suffer, identify with him, and learn the way of the meek and gentle Christ. This is deeply humbling and we should not make light of this incident, but use the opportunity to learn afresh the grace and wisdom of Christ’s witness.

Rony Tan has done the right thing, the brave thing. Perhaps he had no choice. But his actions prove to me he is sincere. He has gone the second mile and it is not just perfuntory minimum requirement.  He will move on from this episode a more able evangelist with an even greater wisdom, love and anointing and reach.

And so can the Church at large as well.

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