Tuesday, October 31, 2006


It was a hot and humid Sunday morning in Santa Cruz Bolivia. People were using their bulletins as a fan. We were celebrating the witness of the Saints departed last Sunday. ALL SAINTS occupies a special place in my heart. I pastored a church called ALL SAINTS in Singapore before my departure for Bolivia nearly 14 years ago.

I was ALSO ordained as a deacon (1995) and priested (1996) on the Sundays before ALL SAINTS DAY in the diocese of Singapore. By a strange coincidence (I stand corrected - there are no coincidences in the Kingdom!) I was recieved as Archdeacon on the Sunday before ALL SAINTS DAY of eastern Bolivia in the parish Christ Light Of The World, by the Bishop of Bolivia, Frank Lyons. Some of the diocesan clergy who had attended the standing committee meeting the day before, stayed behind for the Sunday service and prayed for me. I appreciated that show of support.

If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be an Archdeacon in a South American diocese I would have written him off as crazy!!




From the Barnabas Fund http://www.barnabasfund.org/

Thousands of frightened Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq, after an escalation in anti-Christian violence. Several horrific attacks on Christians in the last three weeks have increased the fear amongst the Christian community. This appears to be a response to a call by militants for increased violence during the Islamic fasting month, Ramadan (which this year is 24th September - 23rd October).

On Wednesday October 4th an explosion was detonated in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad. As people gathered round to help the wounded a second, larger explosion occurred. Nine Christians were killed in the attack, one of the largest deathtolls for a single attack. Observers say that the timing of the two consecutive bombs was similar to that of the attack on a church in Baghdad on 24th September.

On Tuesday 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. Iskander's eldest son received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding a ransom of $250,000; the family, unable to raise this money, were able to negotiate for a ransom of $40,000, but the kidnappers also demanded that Iskander's church publicly repudiate the remarks about Islam quoted by Pope Benedict XVI last month. When Iskander's family asked for proof that he was still alive the kidnappers held up the phone so that the sounds of crying and screaming could be heard. The family began to raise the ransom by asking churches and Christians in the area to help, and arranging several loans. Iskander's church as well as several other churches placed 30 large posters around the city to distance themselves from the Pope's words. However, before the ransom could be paid Iskander's decapitated body was discovered on 12th October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His body showed signs of torture, with cigarette burns, bullet holes and wounds from beatings. His hands and legs had been severed, and arranged around his head which was placed on his chest. Iskander's family later received a phone call from the kidnappers, who taunted them that Iskander "had a lot of blood in him".

In Baquba, 65km north-east of Baghdad, a Christian doctor was abducted and killed on his way to work in Baquba hospital. There has also been an unconfirmed report that a 14-year-old Christian boy was crucified in Basra. Amidst the surge in hostility towards Christians in recent weeks, Christian girls have increasingly become the target in a spate of kidnappings and rapes. The girls are taken from their families at gunpoint, from their homes or snatched off streets into waiting cars. They are frequently raped and abused while in captivity, only released if their families are able to find the large ransoms demanded.

The shame of their ordeal, which is felt far more in such a culture than in the West, can make the victims suicidal. In one case a girl killed herself after being abducted and gang raped by nine men. When the abductors allowed her to call her family she asked them not to pay the ransom. The family did pay and she was returned to them, but she was found dead the following morning; she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. In another case five Christian girls were kidnapped in front of policemen as they tried to obtain passports from a travel and citizenship department in Baghdad. The police did nothing to try to stop the kidnappers. Indeed police forces in Iraq generally seem either unable or unwilling to do anything to protect Christians, and it is reported that some are even participating in these brutal crimes against Christian women and children.

As Christians leave their homes out of fear of the violence around them, some have been specifically threatened to force them to leave. Thirty families in Mosul received messages on their mobile phones on 30th September telling them to leave within 72 hours or they would be killed. The continued exodus of Christians from Iraq and persecution of those who remain leads some to predict that there may soon be an end to the ancient Christian presence in this country.

*Please pray for shocked and grieving Christians coming to terms with the horrific deaths of their loved ones. Pray that they will have peace in their hearts, and feel themselves comforted and protected, held in God's everlasting arms. * Pray for peace in Iraq, and in particular that the violence against Christians will come to an end. Pray that police and security forces in Iraq will protect all citizens irrespective of their faith.

Friday, October 27, 2006


The Bolivian Beat recently interviewed Frank Lyons, Anglican Bishop of Bolivia. Bishop Frank and his wife Shawnee served in Ecuador and Honduras before the Lord called them to serve in Bolivia. They have 5 grown up children. One of them is in Baghdad Iraq and the others are studying and working.

BB: How did you come to a personal knowledge of Christ as your Saviour and Lord?
Bp Lyons
: I came to the Lord as a young lad of six when I was confronted with long periods of debilitating earaches (they would operate to allow for drainage). I turned to the Lord for healing. A few years later, watching the movie “King of Kings” one Holy Week, I realized that Jesus bore his cross personally for me. I was also nourished by a good Sunday school at Loch Raven Presbyterian in Towson, MD. Other experiences as a youth deepened that faith.

BB: You knew Abp Michael Ramsay the former Archbishop of Canterbury when you were a student at Nashotah House. What were your impressions of him?
Bp Lyons: Abp Michael Ramsey is an imposing figure for Anglicanism with his combination of Bible and liturgy. He was foremost a Biblical theologian. He is criticized for this because the tendency is to place systematics above biblical theology. That affected him as well, especially in the (old) Robinson “God is Dead” affair. I believe that by his actions he saved John Robinson’s soul, whereas, James Pike was allowed to wander and perish in the desert. However, as I now read the various biographies, Ramsey regretted his actions until his death as somehow a denial of the unwritten Anglican charity of “openness to whatever doctrine” that in effect pits ego-intellectualism against true faith. Personally, we had some brief chats, but I was not one of the students who maintained a deep, ongoing relationship. He did follow our missionary career with interest.

BB: Who were some of the people that influenced you in your growth as a person and as a pastor/Bishop?
Bp Lyons
: My participation at the two local churches of my youth was rewarding, especially with David Lord’s biblical teaching. Mentoring has not always been an Anglican focus, so my studies and reflection on the ministry have aided me. The Bible faculty at Wheaton, especially Al Hoerth, Hassel Bullock and Gerry Hawthorne, and later Peter Wagner at Fuller, have been of greatest value to me. The time in ministry spent with Steven Giovangelo and the congregation of St. Luke’s of the Mountains in La Crescenta, CA, was invaluable to my and Shawnee’s ministries.

BB: Can you share with readers your experiences In Renewal?
Bp Lyons
: My teenage years were spent at St James Church in Potomac, MD, which was dynamically charismatic. Our rector, David Lord, was a solid Bible teacher and our youth group was very active spiritually. Many people matured in a balanced faith and five others were also called into the ministry during that era. Renewal presented a problem for our Diocese which opposed our version of the “faith once delivered” at every step. Openness to the Spirit does not necessarily mean excess when tempered by clear biblical training, but rather compliments it.

BB: The biggest challenge you face or faced and the most satisfying moment in life ?
Bp Lyons:
My biggest challenge came when the Lord called us overseas to minister cross culturally. I think I was planning to go to some nice quiet, maintenance oriented suburban church. I do not have the adventuring/discovery gifts that I consider necessary to be a missionary. Flexibility and an orientation to lifelong learning help me make up for those deficiencies. The great need for development is what keeps me on track here; developing people mentally, materially, and spiritually as disciples of Jesus.

BB: You participated in a dig in the Holy Land as an archeologist. How has archeology deepened your faith?
Bp Lyons: I dug at Beersheva in the sixth season under Y. Aharoni and A. Rainey, where a horned altar had been discovered previously. Kathleen Kenyon visited that summer. A lot of brute strength was involved in trying to dismantle the Herodian foundations superimposed there. Archaeology is critical in illuminating the text of Scripture and bringing home Jewish culture. As the gentile Church grew out and away from the Land we lost sight of the role of geography and Jewish culture in this context. When Jesus says something, “where he is” and “his culture” are as important as the way in which he says it.

BB: What’s your favorite Bolivian food and why?
Bp Lyons My favorite is Pique Macho. Mouth watering pieces of filet mignon are cooked in a meat sauce with franks or sausage and are placed with fresh tomato, onion and locoto over a bed of piping hot French fries. Locoto is the local pepper which varies in strength within each piece. Delicious, but much like Russian roulette.

Monday, October 23, 2006



How easy it is to lose a friendship: Raw feelings are exchanged after a silly misunderstanding (sometimes through emails)...the atmosphere turns tense...harsh words are then exchanged...attempts to clarify the situation only makes matters worst and before you know it, a friendship is lost. Its kinda painful. You ask yourself - how did this happen?

Its been years...you would like to restore the relationship...but you've lost contact with the person. There does not seem to a practical reason to get back together but something in you wants to be reconciled with the friend you lost. You make contact with the person...hullos are exchanged...we shake hands as an act of courtesy...the smiles are forced. A shallow conversation begins to move the tectonic plates but nothing really happens...the magic isn't there anymore. Lost friendships, like humpty dumpty, are hard to put back again. And the virtue of making the first move to be reconciled, some times, does not elicit a positive response.

Our failures provide a stark contrast to the way in which God fixed our estrangement with Him. This is one Friendship which was restored to the fullest. He made the first move: He came as a human being - the Christ who responded to His Father's initiatives on our behalf because we were busy stroking our own egos; He stretched Himself on the cross, forgave and regenerated us in order to bring about reconciliation. He reached out...drew us toward himself and we felt his Holy embrace! The biblical narratives of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, Isaac and Esau not only mirror Christ's cosmic reconciliation but also serve to inspire us to work at wounded relationships. Now that's a happy ending.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006



Juan and his fiancée, María are a neat couple; they indicated their willingness, a few months ago, to become members of our church. We were thrilled; they flowed with us easily, understood our philosophy of ministry and were potential leaders in the youth ministry. A week ago they told us that they were marrying soon and leaving for Spain in November. Juan got a promising job offer with a remuneration that no employer in Bolivia could possibly match; Bolivians provide cheap labour in highly competitive European capitalist economies.

There are literally thousands of “Juans” and “Marias” who’ve left Bolivia for Spain. The pace of emigration has surged dramatically because of Spain’s impending decision to demand visas from visitors and guest workers from Latin America. The other reasons are the lack of good job opportunities and the current instability in Bolivia. Lengthy queues of people carrying files with travel documents are a common sight at the government immigration office and travel agencies.

There appear to be some “pluses” in this mass exodus. Immigrants and guest workers send remittances to their loved ones in Bolivia. Some single young men and women with no family responsibilities have been blessed by a new environment and the availability of jobs and opportunities. Hard cash from abroad not only helps needy Bolivian families but also serves to inject movement in a financially strapped economy. This could explain the reticence on the part of the Bolivian government to put into place policies that discourage emmigration. Another “plus” is the growth of the Spanish Church. A mission director said recently that Latin American emigration has helped to fill Christian Churches in Spain.

Here’s the bad news. Emigration has contributed to the disintegration of the Bolivian family. Husbands and fathers, after spending many years in Spain, have been known to abandon their wives and children in Bolivia for other women. Teenagers and children are left with relatives while their parents leave for greener pastures. Some emigrants make provision for their families to join them after years of hard labour while others simply abandon them. Spain these days is'nt exactly a model of moral rectitude. Franco’s conservative Spain died in the 70’s. Modern Spain is very permissive; they champion gay marriage in Europe. It’s not hard to see well intentioned Bolivians falling to temptation in such an environment.

And so is this Bolivian exodus a good thing? The massive brain drain will ultimately worsen Bolivia's economic plight; the absence of a parental figure in the home will breed a generation of dysfunctional children. The Lord in bringing good out of evil never justifies the evil. Yes, the Christian Church in Spain appears to have benefited from this migration but this is not a license to put a positive spin on the breakdown of the Bolivian family nor does it absolve the Bolivian government from its responsability of removing barriers to job creation. Some have improved their well-being after having migrated to Spain. In terms of long term national development, however, this exodus is NOT a healthy development.

Pray For Bolivia.


In an interview with Christianity Today (Jan 2003 Greg Barnes) John Stott clearly defined tolerance and proselytism as it relates to the evangelistic/missionary impulse of the church.

CT: Our Critics Accuse Us Of Intolerance And Proselytism.

STOTT: Much of our debate is conducted in what might be called "conditions of low visibility," because we do not always pause to define our terms. This is evidently so in relation to these two words.

Tolerance is one of today's most coveted virtues. But there are at least three different kinds of tolerance.
First, there is legal tolerance: fighting for the equal rights before the law of all ethnic and religious minorities. Christians should be in the forefront of this campaign. Second, there is social tolerance, going out of our way to make friends with adherents of other faiths, since they are God's creation who bear his image. Third, there is intellectual tolerance. This is to cultivate a mind so broad and open as to accommodate all views and reject none. This is to forget G. K. Chesterton's bon mot that "the purpose of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." To open the mind so wide as to keep nothing in it or out of it is not a virtue; it is the vice of the feebleminded.

The other word we need to define is proselytism. To proselytize and to evangelize are not synonymous. The best way to distinguish them is to understand proselytism as "unworthy witness." The World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church produced a helpful study document in 1970 titled Common Witness and Proselytism. It identified three aspects of proselytism. Proselytism takes place (1) whenever our motives are unworthy (when our concern is for our glory rather than God's), (2) whenever our methods are unworthy (when we resort to any kind of "physical coercion, moral constraint, or psychological pressure"), and (3) whenever our message is unworthy (whenever we deliberately misrepresent other people's beliefs).

In contrast, to evangelize is (in the words of the Manila Manifesto) "to make an open and honest statement of the gospel, which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them."

Friday, October 13, 2006


Mutual Respect Requires Us To Reply In The Negative. 

Vast segments of Islam and Christianity will say - “NO”. Muslims and Christians adhere to 2 diametrically opposed revelations: Islam speaks of a god who is One and his name is Allah; Christianity proclaims a Triune God - Father, Son, And Holy Ghost. Trying to reconcile these revelations with the notion that Muslims and Christians have not understood the fullness of the true god is condescending and betrays an ignorance of revelation based religions. The axiom that all religions worship the same God is a popular expression from well-intentioned people - this universal fuzz however displays ignorance of  Islamic and Christian beliefs. 

A Muslim would never agree to the assertion that Allah and the Triune Christian God are one and the same. Christians would heartily agree!! Does this mean that Islam and Christianity are destined to collide? Again the answer is “NO”. The Biblical accounts abound with examples of peaceful co-existence between God’s people and those from different religions and cultures. Joseph played a critical role in pagan Egypt; he found ways to work with Pharoah, a self-proclaimed god-king. Moses took advice from Jethro, Midianite. Nehemiah was an administrator in the Persian court which was sympathetic to a universal vision of religious beliefs. And Jesus did not offend the gods of the Roman Empire; He also resisted all forms of national religiosity as embodied in the Zealots.

What of the texts which appear to encourage conflict between worshippers of other gods and God’s people? The Old Testament prophets in their attempt at protecting the transformational calling of God’s people railed against syncretism and idolatrous worship. There is however no evidence of God’s people taking arms against other nations of different religious beliefs on the basis of religious calling. As a counter-argument, however, the destruction of the Canaanite peoples by the Israelites and the conflicts between the Philistines and Israel appear to foster inter-religious warfare. A closer reading however of these episodes within the larger narrative of God’s judgment of His own people, Israel, helps us conclude that God’s sovereign judgment does not favor any religion or nation. 

He uses the nations of the earth as his temporary instruments to judge other nations. For instance, Israel was his instrument of judgment against the Canaanites; He used Babylon later to judge Israel. The favour Christians enjoy as God’s people is derived from the favor that God the Father showed his Son, Jesus. As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. This is not easy, especially in countries where other religions dominate. The Biblical testimony of Daniel is an important model for Christians who struggle as a minority. Christian leaders are called to peacefully co-exist with people are hostile in their attitudes toward God’s people.

Lord, grant us the patience to bear with injustices and the courage and humility to stake our claims and rights. Hence the constant need for dialogue and mutual understanding so that we may all live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2: 1-2).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Sunday Service: Reacting To The Tragedy At Huanani

Last Sunday's service was a sobering experience; the tragic events at the mining camp which left 16 dead and nearly a hundred seriously injured were in the minds of many as we gathered for Sunday worship. People had been expecting a dangerous confrontation given the rising tensions within the country. No one however expected a flare-up between the miners - allies of the present government. There is a sense that this will only be the beginning of other acts of violence.

We stood in the breach and asked for forgiveness for the sins of violence and hatred; prayers were offered for the families of the loved ones. I preached on the beatitude, Blessed Are The Peacemakers For They Shall Be Called The Sons Of God". My heart ached for the Bolivian people as I preached; the eucharist drew us into His sacred presence and gave us the strength to face the future as peacemakers. Amongst some of of the stories of encouragement I used in the message were Archbishop's Robert Runcie's decision to have a service of reconciliation and peace after the Falklands War (much to the consternation of some British politicians who wanted a service of victory!) and the Commission of Justice And Reconciliation in South Africa which forgave those who confessed to violent crimes during rule of Apartheid. Sharing the peace during the service and sending God's people into the world with the assurance of His presence was especially meaningful.

Pray for us!

Friday, October 06, 2006


16 Dead...61 Injured

A conflict over mining rights between 2 groups of miners, yesterday, turned violent at a place called Huanani in the state of Oruro (Bolivian Highlands). One group began to hurl dynamite! A hospital was destroyed. The place looked like a war zone! 61 miners were injured and 16 lost their lives. One of the groups enjoyed the support of the government during the last general elections. A grim looking, Evo Morales, president of the nation, went on national TV to announce the resignation of the cabinet minister who was overseeing the dispute which apparently surfaced in July this year; a replacement was appointed immediately. The miners are a feared constituency in Bolivia; normally their participation in any protest spells trouble for the party in power. The next few days will hopefully bring some sense of order and calm.

The business community in Santa Cruz is putting together a number of initiatives to help the mining community where the incident took place. They've collected dry rations, raised funds and have encouraged people to donate blood. These are good moves because they help ease tensions and build solidarity between Santa Cruz and the peoples from the highlands. Bolivia is deeply divided as the constitutional assembly struggles to craft a new constitution that will hopefully promote social justice and unite all sectors of society. The deaths of these miners has shaken everyone and maybe this tragedy will bring the nation together!

This Sunday, God willing, I hope to draw on the Biblical teaching of Christian peacemaking in society as we manifest our calling to be salt and light of the earth.

Thursday, October 05, 2006



Henry 8th was a poster boy for intrigue and scandal in the 16th century tabloids. His court briefings would have made front page news and hogged the 24 hour news cycle! And so its odd to hear people saying that this fellow was founder of the Anglican Church or that the Anglican Church was the result of a divorce.

Wasn’t Henry 8th founder of the Anglican Church? Bolivian history textbooks under Roman influence resoundingly reply – Yes! The irony is that some low evangelicals would probably agree to this soap opera view of church history. Some might not even bother with the issue. This post does not arise out of any desire to defend the Anglican Church but rather reflects my interest in European Church history. So if you like to know something about Anglican origins…read on…

The gospel according to some historians was brought to the British Isles by an unknown cast of merchants, soldiers, tradesmen. The Anglican Church traces its beginnings to the 3rd century in Britain; Bishops from the British Isles were present at the council of Arles; an indigenous sort British Christianity (call it Celtic if you wish) existed prior to the coming of the first Roman missionaries in the 6th century.

Pope Gregory sent Augustine in the 6th century to the British Isles as a missionary to help in the evangelisation of Britain. Like it or not, the Roman church was a later accretion within British Christianity. The Roman and British faith traditions went through a period of interpenetration with Rome being the dominant partner. This interpenetration however did not dissolve Rome and Britain into one religious and political entity. Regional, cultural and religious differences in Europe coupled with medieval political intrigue provided the setting for a topsy - turvy relationship between Rome and the British ruling elite throughout the centuries. Everything came to a head in the 16 the century when Pope Clement did not allow Henry to divorce his wife and remarry; Henry was desperate for a male successor to the throne. The swirling forces of the Reformation and regional nationalistic loyalties gave Henry the necessary groundswell to cut links with Rome and assert a popular sort of Protestant Christianity in Britain. Rome however had its supporters in the royal court as well as in the streets. Henry’s actions triggered conflicts in the country and Britain was characterised by convulsions during the reigns of Henry’s successors - Edward and Mary. Queen Elizabeth, during her 40 year reign, stabilized the country, and provided the structures necessary to keep the Church of England intact. The rest is history…

So was the Anglican Church the result of a divorce? No it was not and here’s why.

Henry 8th’s divorce did not herald the beginning of the Anglican Church but was rather one of the many events in the 16th century which indirectly set the stage for the renewal of the British church. The tectonic religous plates were already shifting before the divorce: educated laity were reading the Bible, Luther's ideas were taking root; slowly but surely superstitions were being questioned. History suggests that the Anglican church was not a renegade Roman Church that Henry managed to make Protestant through his divorce. Henry, the astute politician that he was, rode the Reformation tiger, assumed ecclesiastical powers and freed himself from Roman dominance.

So who was responsible for the origins of the Anglican Church? It’s great public relations to have a Luther, Calvin, St. Francis or a Cho Yong Gi as founder of your movement or Church. Anglicans however will have to settle for a cast of unknown evangelists. The Anglican Church, not unlike the New Testament gentile churches in Rome and Antioch, traces its beginnings in the 3rd century through the labours of dynamic lay people – soldiers, businessmen and merchants. And wait a minute - isn’t that Christ's Church in action!!