HAVING consulted the College of Consultors, His Grace Most Reverend…
KOTA KINABALU – It is the time of the year when SHEP partners meet up to live its partnership in reality.
SHEP stands for Sabah-Heilbronn Ecumenical Partnership. The theme chosen for this year was “We partner, We Alive, We Journey”.
Five Catholics and two Protestants from Heilbronn began a 15-day reciprocal visit to Sabah on Oct 27, on a 1241 km road trip spanning the three arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Sandakan.
The mutual ecumenical visit, organized by the Sabah SHEP main committee and headed by Dr Paul Porodong (PCS), also involved 15 host families spread out in nine districts.
As the aim of this Partnership is to primarily promote awareness and better understanding of ecumenism, as well as to encourage ecumenical sharing of resources, the visit would naturally include activities and places of interest involving the Catholic, BCCM (Basel), PCS (Protestant Church in Sabah) partners.
Courtesy visits to the various heads of churches were also on the agenda: Bishop James Wong (Basel), Archbishop John Wong (RC), President Jensey Mojuin (PCS), and Bishop Julius Gitom (RC).
The idea of the ecumenical partnership was born out of the realization for fraternal unity and to enrich each other along the Christian journey.
In 1982, Dr Karl Rennstich, a Protestant missionary formerly serving the Rungus community in Kudat, and Werner Reiter, the executive secretary of the Catholic Centre for Education Work, initiated an ecumenical study group from Heilbronn. Rennstich was attached to the Office of Mission and Ecumenical Relations in Heilbronn.
A direct consequence of this visit was the first ‘return visit’ when Malaysian Christians were invited to participate in a Mission Festival in Heilbronn in 1984. Since then there has been cordial meaningful contacts between the churches of both countries.
In August 1990, formal agreements were signed to seal the partnership between Catholics of Sabah and Heilbronn, and Protestant Church of Heilbronn and BCCM.
A new development in the partnership was made on 26 September 2008 when a common ecumenical partnership agreement was signed by all partners, both in Heilbronn and Sabah.
The signatories from Sabah were (RC) Archbishop John Lee, Bishop Cornelius Piong, Bishop Julius Gitom, (Basel) Bishop Dr Thomas Tsen and (PCS) President Jimmy Ojilim Asam, while the signatories from the District of Heilbronn-Neckarsulm were represented by the Catholic Deanery and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. – CS