HONG KONG – The Lutheran Church–Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS) celebrated 65 years of ministry at a Thanksgiving Service October 26, 2014 in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The event also marked the ordination of eight new pastors—a record number for one year in the LCHKS.
President Allan Yung of the LCHKS recently gave an interview to Lutheran Radio UK where he discussed the history and present work of the church in Hong Kong. Missionary activity from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) began in China a century ago (an event the LCHKS celebrated last year), but missionaries were forced to leave the mainland in 1949. LCMS missionaries who evacuated to Hong Kong, a city at the time that was much smaller and poorer than it is today.
“It was still a very small place—less than half a million people,” President Yung notes. “Most of them were refugees. They were very poor. They needed material support and spiritual support—they were very hungry.” The Lutheran missionaries requested to stay and serve permanently in Hong Kong, a request that was granted. “Since then, a lot of work has been carried out,” President Yung said. “Now we are a city of seven million people.”
President Yung entered office in 1997, the same year Hong Kong was transferred to the authority of the Chinese government. While at the time some Westerners worried what impact that might have on Christian witness in Hong Kong, President Yung is happy to say that the mission of the church continues to flourish.
Today, the LCHKS has 10,500 communicants, 36 congregations, six mission stations, 40 schools, 45 social service centres, and other agencies like a seminary, counseling services, and more. In total, the church has more than 130 service units throughout Hong Kong.
That strong push towards community service brings with it an opportunity for Gospel witness. “We have 20,000 students studying in our schools,” President Yung explains, “and about 90% of them are not Christian. So we build up in all our schools a mission station, and some have become congregations already. So they are fed not only worldly knowledge but also spiritual knowledge.”
The same is true of social service projects. “We share our earthly things with people because that’s what Jesus wants,” President Yung notes. “We want to share the love of God with them. The people understand that this comes from a church, and it is very well received by the public.”
The respect the church has gained because of its education work has led in recent years to unique opportunities. The LCHKS is now starting an English school in Shenzhen, a neighbouring city in mainland China. President Yung notes that they are also working with the national church there to offer an English-language Sunday service.
These opportunities are possible because the church is careful to avoid politics. “We don’t want to get ourselves into political issues,” President Yung explains. “We just want to be involved in Gospel issues and service issues, so we can grow and move forward in Hong Kong. We want to have a good relationship with the authority in Hong Kong as well as the authority in mainland China.”
The church also has good relations with other Christians. The church works with other Christians in Hong Kong on external matters (like disaster relief, for example), but is careful to defend its confessional Lutheran identity. The LCHKS is known locally as a conservative church because of its strict adherence to biblical teachings on issues like female ordination, President Yung notes, but he clarifies that “we are a growing conservative church.” “We are most grateful to be able to say that,” President Yung continued. “We have a constant growth of about three to five percent membership a year.”
The LCHKS has a strong relationship with Christians around the world as well. The church retains close ties to the LCMS, its mother church, and further sits as a member of the International Lutheran Council.