26 April 2024

A Chinese-Australian vision for the Melbourne Diocese in 2197

The Reverend Jessica with her husband Rick. Picture: supplied 

By the Reverend Jessica Cheung 

4 June 2022

Every perspective risks distortion without a context. Retracing the history of Chinese Anglicanism in Melbourne as a missionary endeavour is thus necessary to develop any vision for its future. 

In 1851, four years after the creation of the Diocese of Melbourne, gold was first discovered in Ballarat, triggering off the gold rush by thousands of Chinese. The new nation Australia quickly passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 to bar further Chinese arrivals. 

One hundred and twenty years ago, the Chinese Mission Church was established in Chinatown as the first Chinese church in Victoria. It was later associated with the Diocese to become the autonomous Anglican Mission of the Epiphany (ACME). 

The lifting of the White Australia policy in 1973 opened the nation to increasing ethnic Chinese migrations from many countries. However, without suitable Chinese-speaking priests, Anglicanism’s clergy-centred model severely hampered any evangelistic outreach to these communities. 

In 1987, Archbishop David Penman boldly ordained my husband Rick, making him possibly at one time the only Chinese-speaking clergy in Victoria. As ACME’s Missioner, he planted the first Cantonese-speaking Anglican congregation in Burwood in 1995.   

Working with Bible College of Victoria, the first nationally accredited Chinese theological program was inaugurated in our parish one year later. That program has been strategically chaired for a decade by the Reverend Professor Victor Yu, now a Diocesan Examining Chaplain. 

In late 1990s, David Ruan, a graduate once taught by Rick, was confirmed in our parish together with his wife Esther. Assisted by ACME, the couple successfully planted the Diocese’s first Mandarin-speaking congregation in Doncaster as supported by then Archdeacon Paul Barker. The Ruans were later ordained. 

Read more: Optimism as tots trickle back to Mandarin playgroup

There are now 23 Chinese Anglican clergy ministering in 15 Chinese Anglican congregations in this Diocese. Most were previously non-Anglicans like us. About 65 per cent of them were graduates from our Chinese program now headed by the Reverend Dr Theresa Lau in Melbourne School of Theology.  

God’s Spirit has indeed brought numerous Chinese persons to faith through their ministries in the past three decades, with a large number baptised and confirmed as Anglicans in Melbourne. 

Yet former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey rightly warned, “the Church is always one generation away from extinction”. So, apart from divine mercy, what can I envisage for our Diocese in the next seven generations till 2197?  

Our Diocesan Mission Statement is to make the Word of God fully known. Thus my vision for our Diocese’s vital growth lies in the centrality of God’s Word as empowered by God’s Spirit.  

Based on the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God written, it is a vision to use the Bible more prayerfully in all our ministries, both lay and ordained. It is to generate spiritual growth by sowing God’s seeds, as in the Parable of the Sower, through preaching, teaching and learning the Bible. 

It is also a vision of deep commitment to faithful intercessory prayers, trusting in the Spirit’s power to create genuine faith in people, while changing their recalcitrant hearts to obey Jesus Christ as Lord. 

To ensure a viable future, Melbourne Anglicans must obey the Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, starting with their baptised children and confirmed teenagers, training them by example in God’s Word, and pray for their transformation by God’s Spirit to become faithful followers of our Messiah. 

Yes, I long to see Melbourne Anglicans faithfully witnessing to their multicultural neighbours that Jesus is Lord, while taking the Bible and prayer at heart seriously, serving one another in love, and living for our Father’s glory in the power of the Holy Spirit! 

The Reverend Jessica Cheung is in charge of the Mandarin congregation planted by her at St James, Ivanhoe. Jessica and her husband Rick have over 57 years of ordained ministries between them. They also pioneered the weekly Mandarin worship at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

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