DIRECTalk: PETER AU: The Church’s response is too slow

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HE spoke out and petitioned against legalization of same sex marriage in Canada and is still working hard on the Canadian Church’s standing on same-sex marriage. He is the Principal of Canadian Chinese School of Theology at Tyndale Seminary and advisor to Richmond Hill Christian Community Church. Rev Dr Peter Au believes that once the Chinese Methodist Church is revived it will have a huge impact on the Methodist churches in the UK and even around the world.

“In-depth study” of the faith
Rev Dr Peter Au was born and raised in Hong Kong. His family practiced folk beliefs. At the age of 20 he furthered his studies at the University of Waterloo, Canada. He accepted Christ during his college years.

“At that time, a group of Christian students evangelized to me. A biochemistry student like me would research and study in depth. In so doing, I found that Christians have qualities such as love and care which I didn’t have. So I followed them to Bible study and before long I decided to accept Christ into my life.”

That was not the first time he heard the gospel. He had attended a Catholic secondary school, St. Francis Xavier’s College, in Hong Kong. At that time he did not like Christianity mainly because of the Catholic system. He has always liked science since young and even had a science laboratory at home. He felt that there were many things in Christianity that could not be explained scientifically. On top of that he had grown up in a family practicing folk beliefs and had been taught to believe in multiple deities since his childhood. He could not agree with the idea that “God is the one true God”. The old phrase “one more Christian, one less Chinese” also influenced him greatly because he thought that Chinese traditions and culture would slowly disappear if Chinese became Christians.

In Canada he met a group of very good Christians. Their testimonies touched him deeply. So to him, personal witnessing by a Christian is of great importance for unbelievers. “The cross always touches me deeply after becoming a Christian. I was not related to Jesus in any way, yet He died for me. What an unconditional and eternal love! This got me thinking of what I could do for Christ. At that time I didn’t even know about serving God, I just had that simple thought.”

Bringing along his mother to the seminary
Rev Dr Peter Au graduated from university in 1975 and worked in Canada. He was helping a professor to carry out a research on river pollution. Later he worked in a social work organization. Finally, in 1978 he dedicated himself to God and enrolled in a seminary.

“My father passed away in 1976. I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to evangelize my mother when I returned home for the funeral. My mother asked me to give her three days. After three days she took the initiative to clear away the altar in the house. She followed me to Canada and was baptised in Canada. Later when I went to Dallas to study theology, I even brought along my mother into the seminary. Ha! Ha! Ha! …”

In 1980 Rev Au, still a theological student then, took over the pastoral work at College Station, a university town in the States. Among many others, he also shepherded a university student, Tie King Tai who is now the current President of SCAC.

Originally Cantonese speaking, the very special language environment helped Rev Au to learn to speak Chinese. That helped him in pastoring more Chinese. “At that time the congregation spoke 3 languages: Cantonese speaking congregation from Hong Kong, Chinese speaking congregation from Taiwan and the English speaking congregation. To compromise, I would preach in Chinese with English translation. ”

He was ordained when he was pastoring at College Station, a place that he holds a special in his heart.

After serving at College Station, Rev Au was invited to be the Acting Principal of the Biblical Seminary of the Philippines; he was later appointed as the Principal. Three years later he returned to Dallas to write his doctoral thesis. At that time he was also pastoring in Dallas Chinese Fellowship Church.

After the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident his sister asked him to help in the application for migration but he was not a US citizen. In addition, the pastor of his mother church, Toronto Chinese Alliance Church, was sick and asked him to return too. Hence, in 1990 he chose to return to Canada where he already had citizenship.

Church targeted for its firm stance
Same-sex marriage in Canada was legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. That made Canada the fourth country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage throughout its land.

In the view of Rev Dr Peter Au, the mainstream churches in Canada such as the Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Church and the United Churches have all gone along with the social practice, support same-sex marriage and have gay pastors.

Those homosexual groups are good in their strategies. They not only employ lawyers to promote their agenda but also pick those seasons when all the churches are busiest, such as Easter and Christmas, to pass the bills in Parliament. In this way the church has no time to bother about the matter and the relevant bills were passed before the church could respond. Although over 20,000 people protested and he even spoke on behalf of the Chinese churches but it was too late.

On top of same-sex marriages, Canada has legalized the use of marijuana which means from now on people can buy marijuana in general stores.
The Canadian gay communities are now working hard to implement the “Hate Crime”. If the bill is to be passed in Parliament, it will be a crime for anybody who attacks or opposes homosexuality in writing or verbally or even speaking from the church pulpit. In addition, if homosexual couples want to get married in the church, it will be an offence if the church refuses.

“In fact a law school in a Christian university in Vancouver was ordered to close down because the law school opposed same sex marriage and hence was targeted by homosexual groups.”

The government is imposing more rules and restrictions upon churches. For example, in the past the churches could conduct Bible classes during summer vacation and it was funded by the government. However, this year’s funding comes with a condition “cannot refuse those with homosexual tendencies”. Because of that the Chinese churches and evangelical churches are not accepting the grants this year. What the church is doing is to ask for its own rules and moral standards in the church. As long as it is preached within the church others should not criticize. “The church is now fighting for at least preaching according to biblical teachings. However things are changing so fast and becoming unpredictable.”

Multiculturalism affects the next generation
Every year there is a homosexual parade in Canada. The school teaches that “1 in every 10 people has homosexual tendency” and school textbooks also cover the understanding of two fathers or two mothers in a family rather than a father and a mother in a family. Homosexual couples can also adopt children.

Then there is no division between men and women in public toilets. “I went to the toilet in a mall the other day. When I opened the door I saw a girl. I thought I had entered the wrong toilet. Then I realized that there was no such division now. “

Rev Dr Peter Au believes that the younger generation is greatly influenced by multicultural secularism, leading to the concept of “mind your own business”. On the same-sex marriage issue they have no objection and follow the crowd.

It is a pity that the mainstream churches in Canada are not strong and the church attendance is going down. Because of that the churches can only react passively by asking for the most basic rights of expressing the church’s stance within the church. “In the past there were church institutions that helped ex-homosexuals but now these institutions are unable to continue.”

“Now we can only strengthen with disciple making. If believers can become disciples, grasp the biblical truth clearly and firmly, live a prayerful life and follow the teachings of the Bible in their personal and family lives, the next generation would be saved and sustained from all these social changes and trends.”

The current trend in the society is shaking the younger generation. Not long ago the Canadian white churches conducted a survey called “Faith Drain”, that is to say, many youngsters leave the church after entering university, causing big loss to the church.

Rev Au admits that many Christians in Canada are nominal. The churches are mostly empty although the situation is better in the Chinese churches.

Hence he suggests that the church should truly review itself from points of view of teaching, discipleship, evangelism and etc. Otherwise it will continue to decline.

He, however, thanks God for the East Malaysian Methodist Church and believes that once the Chinese Methodist Church is revived it will have a profound impact on the Methodist churches in the UK and even around the world.

Interviewer: Menglei
Interviewee: Rev Dr Peter Au
Recorder: April Lu
Translator: KT Chew

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