45 Years of God’s Grace
Updated: Jan 9
By Rev Tan Eng Boo
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”
(Lam. 3:22, 23 ESV)
Today we commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Grace Church. Let me share with you a short history of Grace Church:
It was in January 1976 when 30 Lifers and friends came to No. 5 Jalan Haji Salam to begin a new church in the Eastern part of Singapore. Grace Church was the first B-P Church to be planted in District 15 (in those days). We cannot forget Dr Tow Siew Ai who gave this building to be used as a church. Rev Timothy Tow, the founding Pastor of the B-P Church and Pastor of Life BPC, our mother church dedicated this building. Rev Patrick Tan was then appointed to pastor Grace church in the beginning. I was seconded from Galilee BPC to serve in Grace Church for two years in 1978 but ended up being ordained in 1981. Since then, I have been with Grace till this day.
Our early days with the B-P Presbytery and Synod
Since the founding of Grace Church, we have been a part of the B-P Presbytery and Synod until October 1988. My ordination was handled by the Presbytery. In those days Grace was a vibrant and growing church. We had lots of young people and many young families too. Our relationship with other BPCs were very warm and cordial. We, Pastors usually met every Saturday morning in the home of Dr Tow Siang Hwa for prayer and fellowship. There were also retreats for Pastors, elders and church staff with many excellent speakers from overseas e. g., Dr Peter Masters from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in London. B-P Churches came together for combined meetings, outreach work and even cooperated in foreign missions. I was the chairman of the B-P foreign missions work and I brought a number of B-P members for field trips to Indonesia and the Philippines. In fact, the B-P Church was one of the fastest growing denominations in Singapore and our denominational Bible College, the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) was expanding. Most of us B-P Pastors (of my generation) were FEBC trained.
Grace Church and the dissolution of the B-P Church
Writing in the second edition of In His Good Time: The story of the Church in Singapore, 1819-1992, Dr Bobby E. K. Sng commented:
“One of the saddest episodes in the ’80s must surely be the dissolution of the Bible-Presbyterian Church of Singapore. Begun in the ’50s, this church played a historic role in battling liberal theology. Its crusading spirit and strong evangelistic stance ensured rapid growth in the ’60s and ’70s. By the late ’80s, it had started 25 churches with a total membership in excess of 6,000. However, with growth, internal differences also arose. Its relentless call for believers to separate themselves from what it considered to be non-fundamental churches and new-evangelicals, brought a mixed response. Not all agreed on the rigid, narrow definition of ‘separation’. In a statement issued on 30 October 1988 describing its voluntary dissolution, the B-P Church declared: “The decision was arrived at after much prayerful consideration and discussion over certain protracted issues. These issues centred mainly on strong differences in interpreting the Doctrine of Biblical Separation, Fundamentalism, and Neo-Evangelicalism. Concerted attempts were made during the past two years at reconciliation through personal discussions and formal meetings. Even a moratorium failed to resolve these differences and break the impasse. Dissolution is accepted as the last resort.”
I represented Grace B-P Church on 30 October 1988 in the Synod meeting held in Life BPC. It was a sad day for our denomination when every B-P Church went their own way. Grace Church was closer to the mother church, Life BPC, so we continued to maintain strong ties with Life, but we independently did our own work and ministry from that time onwards. We sent out our first foreign missionary, Sis Catherine Ng (1992). Sis Tan Chew Gim was our second missionary (2009). We did mission work in Kenya, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. We have ordained our own Elders, Elder Seah Soon Huat (2003), Elder Victor Goh (2019). We have remained cordial in our relationships with other BPCs and I thank God for this attitude towards our sister churches.
Grace Church and the King James Only (VPP) issue
Sometime in 2004, the B-P Church went through another turmoil. Although we were autonomous, we still had connections with other BPCs. We treasured the relationships especially after the dissolution of the B-P Presbytery Synod. But there is a danger of not having a Presbytery or a Synod because everyone does that which is right in their own sight. When the King James Only issue surfaced within mother church (Life BPC) and the Far Eastern Bible College, several of us B-P Pastors had a meeting with Rev Timothy Tow over this strange teaching (Grace weekly “THE PERFECT BIBLE OR THE PERFECT VERSION? Shifting from the Original B-P Position” 2005), but it was ignored. It caused a further split in the BPCs. Grace Church did not take the KJV-Only view.
Grace Church at 45 years old
We are still on our own today, since the 1988 dissolution of the B-P Synod. We have managed to establish our church. Together with other like-minded BPCs we have cooperated in certain ministry activities. Should we remain like this for the coming years? With God’s grace we can. We have already done it! But I think we should seriously consider coming together again with the other B-P churches. We can do this by joining the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore (BPCIS) Presbytery. I have been holding an observer status in this group for the last 10 years. They have 8 BPCs with them in the Presbytery today. You have heard from Rev David Wong recently about it. We should commit this matter to the Lord and ask Him to guide us, as to when we should join it.
We should also be praying earnestly for a pastoral successor.
God bless Grace Church as we enter our 46th year of service. May a new generation of Gracians come forth to bring the church onward. Amen