Legacy reports on COG conference in Myanmar
By Dave Havir
The Church of God in Myanmar (the country also known as Burma) conducted the second annual meeting of its general conference in the city of Kalaymyo over the Pentecost weekend of May 30.
Leon Sexton, founder and director of Legacy Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and a former member of the Worldwide Church of God, reported on the conference in a letter to his mailing list.
Mr. Sexton explained that the meeting was originally scheduled during the Days of Unleavened Bread but was postponed until Pentecost.
"Most of the elders couldn't make it because of Passover responsibilities in their own congregations," he said. "They decided to hold the conference at Pentecost, and I was asked to return and chair the annual meeting of this new Church of God organization."
Mr. Sexton described the size of the organization.
"Attending the meeting were nine pastors, including me, and 10 deacons, representing various individual fellowships," he said.
Mr. Sexton said the largest group was represented by "evangelist Lazum Brang from Kachinland," Myanmar's northernmost state.
According to Mr. Sexton, Mr. Lazum represented "seven small churches and scattered individual members totaling over 350."
He continued: "Pastor Peter Za Hmung represents the second-largest group, the Kalaymyo Church of God congregation, of about 150 persons. Others represented congregations of 10-30 persons."
Mr. Sexton described the structure of the conference as "simple."
"They all have joined together into one organization called simply the Church of God of Myanmar," he said. "Each pastor maintains his own congregation."
Mr. Sexton described the organization as having "no president or pastor general." He also mentioned that there are "no ministerial ranks."
Mr. Sexton said conference delegates selected a "chairman" to serve a year and explained his function.
"It is the duty of that individual to coordinate activities of the general conference and lead next year's meeting," he said.
Purpose of conference
Mr. Sexton said the purpose of creating the annual meeting of the general conference was twofold:
Main agenda topic
Mr. Sexton talked about the main agenda item for the meetings this year.
"High on the list of this year's priorities was to decide on a platform of fundamental doctrines that would determine membership in the conference," he said. "There are some differences in doctrinal beliefs among the various fellowships in Myanmar."
Mr. Sexton mentioned one of the differences.
"For instance, some keep the annual holy days, and some do not, although all the men present do observe them," he said.
The men decided upon five "fundamental doctrines" to provide a "foundation for unity." They were:
The next topic on the agenda was the discussion of evangelistic activities.
Mr. Sexton described the challenges of communication and travel within Myanmar. He noted that few people have electricity or telephones.
"After lengthy discussion, it was decided that translations of Church of God material into [the various] tribal languages was very important," Mr. Sexton said.
He explained a recommendation that might surprise many Westerners.
"I recommended against acquiring an expensive computer," he said. "A computer takes electricity, and there are virtually no Church of God members trained in setup and maintenance of computers and printers."
Mr. Sexton offered the services of his Legacy Institute, which operates a school for young people, to help with evangelistic projects.
"Since we have computers at Legacy Institute and are training young [people from the] Chin, Kachin and Karen [tribes] in how to use them, I offered for Legacy to do their computer typesetting," he said.
Then the group discussed travel problems. Since roads are few and public transportation is limited, the church leaders discussed acquiring "a small motorcycle strong enough to take two persons on evangelistic tours."
Mr. Sexton told how decisions are made.
"Every delegate attending can cast a single vote," he said. "But decisions are usually arrived at by discussion and consensus."
Mr. Sexton also described the funding of projects.
"A tithe of each congregation's income is collected for the evangelistic activities of the general conference," he said.
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