Lu Guan Hoe succeeds Terry Kee as 3rd Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore
by Janice Tai // July 2, 2021, 3:25 pm
Rev Terry Kee putting the Bishop's cross on Bishop Lu, with Bishop Emeritus John Tan looking on.
“I hope you do not … compare yourself with me because you are not me. You have gifts that I don’t have. But God can use each one of us according to what he has given us and for what we lack, God can impart it to us along the way.”
Outgoing Bishop of the Lutheran Church, Rev Terry Kee, 63, had this nugget of advice for the newly-installed 3rd Bishop of the Lutheran Church, during last week’s (June 26) installation service for its new Bishop and executive committee members.
Bishop Lu Guan Hoe, 60, steps in to fill the shoes of Rev Kee, who is stepping down after 12 years of service as the 2nd Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore. Over the years, Rev Kee also played a key role in the leadership of organisations such as the National Council of Churches, Trinity Theological College and the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO).
As he stood at the podium on stage and looked towards Bishop Lu, Rev Terry Kee recalled what it was like for him when he was installed as the 2nd Bishop some 12 years ago in 2009.
“It was an awesome, frightening thing to be Bishop because we have a big responsibility. We know it is God who called and we are accountable to God,” Rev Kee said with much candour, as he recalled how he trembled in fear as the day of the installation drew near.
With further frankness, Rev Kee admitted how he had compared himself to his predecessor, the first Bishop of the Lutheran Church Rev John Tan Yok Han, when he was elected.
“God used Joshua in a very different way from how He used Moses…for that he certainly needed gifts that are different from Moses.”
“I realised that my gifting is very different from his. I saw what he could do well and those were the things I couldn’t. Of course, I have other gifts, but because he was the Bishop and I saw him doing those things and doing them well, I got worried because I was not able to do those things well,” said Rev Kee. Bishop John Tan was the first Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore after it separated from the Lutheran Church in Malaysia in 1997.
Rev Kee went on to encourage his successor not to do what he did and refrain from comparing himself to the two Bishops who went before him.
Instead of looking at their differences, he urged him to remember what they all have in common.
“We have the same God who created heaven and earth that has called you. He has equipped you and He has promised to help you,” said Rev Kee, who went on to build upon his point of leaders having different giftings for different assignments by using the biblical example of Joshua who was chosen by God to succeed Moses.
“God used him in a very different way from how He used Moses. Moses’ main task was to lead the Israelites through and out of the wilderness, but Joshua was to bring them into the Promised Land. It was not a simple, easy journey in. They had to go in fighting. That was a big task and a frightening task. For that he certainly needed gifts that were different from Moses’,” said Rev Kee.
“I do not know what God wants you to do for the next stage and what God wants you to bring into the Church. But I am sure it is different from what He has done through Bishop John Tan and through me. You have your gifts and I believe God will use this to bless the Church,” he added as he gave his sermon that afternoon.
Dialogue and reconciliation
Rev Kee leaves behind a legacy of promoting dialogue within divided congregations.
“In all my years of ministry, I have been assigned to many different places, but always with one thing in common – that is the need to bring reconciliation,” said Rev Kee.
Early in his ministry, he was used by the Lord to ease tensions between congregations in a church. After that, he was assigned to another church that had issues between the Charismatics and others. Later, he served in a congregation where there was great tension between the older and younger generations. For 10 years, he also worked on church planting overseas in Thailand before being called back to Singapore in 2006.
In 2014, Bishop Kee spearheaded the rebuilding of Jurong Christian Church that incorporated a church hub concept, housing six churches from different denominations under one roof.
As part of the IRO (Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore), he seeks to engage the inter-faith community without compromising the Christian faith.
He is expected to serve as the vice-president of the IRO for a year before becoming the president from the middle of next year.
The holy installation service last Saturday was steeped in ceremony and tradition. But with the current Covid restrictions on church gatherings, those present – mainly leaders of the Lutheran Church in Singapore – were limited to 50.
Hundreds of others viewed the two-hour service on livestream on YouTube, including the overseas partners of the Church, who sent their greetings and blessings to the new Bishop via video snippets.
Said Rev Dr Philip Lok Oi Peng, regional secretary for Asia, Lutheran World Federation: “I would like to congratulate Bishop Lu for his courage to answer God’s calling, to lead the LCS during this global crisis. If ever there is the best year to be the bishop of a church, that year is not 2021.”
Rev John Henderson, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Australia, noted that leadership at this time is particularly challenging, but perhaps not more so than the generations that have gone before.
“Each generation carries its own challenges, but the work of Christ continues. We continue to stand on the shoulders of faith that they have sent to us, over the years. We continue to do the work of faith, that they have passed on to us through the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The new executive committee members were also installed that afternoon.
Established in 1997, the Lutheran Church in Singapore has nearly 3,000 members. Organised into five congregations, it has 21 ordained pastors.
Leadership in a time of Covid
Bishop Lu takes on his new appointment amid a raging global pandemic that shows little sign of abating.
Over the last two years, Rev Kee has had to make several key decisions on behalf of the Lutheran Church as it sought to continue to shepherd its flock through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Lutheran Church in Singapore made a decision to run one live-streamed worship service for everyone in April last year and then allow each congregation to stream their own services in May when they were properly prepared. We also advised churches to apply for QR codes to have digital banking facilities, but many older members are not so technical savvy and don’t have smart phones. One of our pastors did audio recordings of services and sent these files to older members to include them,” said Rev Kee.
The Lutheran Church also made a decision not to do virtual Holy Communion, which some other churches were doing. He noted that there was a real hunger for the sacrament when people came back.
In his sermon at the installation service, Rev Kee mentioned a recent conversation he had with Bishop Lu about the need to depend on God for guidance and strength.
“We wish that everything in our life and ministry will be plain sailing but sometimes it’s so smooth that we may forget the need to depend on God and we take things into our own hands. We just work and depend on ourselves and then there is a danger that we make the same mistake that Joshua did,” said Rev Kee.
“Sometimes, it seems so easy and so clear and we (feel we can) make a decision, but if we make that so-called simple decision without waiting upon the Lord, we may be deceived.”
In his own address that afternoon, Bishop Lu said he was grateful for the constant encouragement and guidance of his predecessor.
He added that he is clinging on to God’s promise in Isaiah 43: 2-3 that God has promised to be with him through the waters, rivers and fire, so that the waters will not sweep over him, and neither will the flames of the fire burn him.
Bishop Lu has been a pastor in the Lutheran Church for over 30 years after graduating from Trinity Theological College in 1988. He was ordained in 1992 and was assigned to serve in Bedok Lutheran Church post-graduation. After serving there for 17-and-a-half years, he was transferred to Lutheran Church of our Redeemer in 2006.
He was an interim port chaplain in the International Lutheran Seafarers’ Mission for one year after which he was assigned to serve the congregation at Queenstown Lutheran Church in 2017. In May this year, he was elected as the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore at its 25th Annual General Meeting.
He is married to Grace, a principal at one of the Lutheran childcare centres. They have two daughters, one works in marketing and the other is a trained pilot.
Some of the duties required of him as Bishop include advising and counselling the pastors and all congregations concerning their spiritual and temporal welfare. He will serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Lutheran Church and is its official spokesperson.
Moving forward, Rev Kee said one of the challenges that the new Bishop will face would be ensuring effective leadership succession, in raising and equipping men and women who can respond to the changing landscape without compromising the faith and its convictions.
Indeed, there are plans for reassignment of the workers in the Lutheran Church as well as for fresh recruitment.
“I would like to recruit and develop new pastoral workers to lead and guide the congregations. We will be encouraging members of the congregations to enter into ordained ministry, and hoping that through this, with the increase in numbers, we can also lower the average ages of our pastoral team,” said Bishop Lu.
“My immediate priority is to strengthen and help the various congregations to move forward together towards the vision and mission of the church to build and grow a house that bears the name of the Lord, in line with our Lutheran Confessions.”