By Mark Michael
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Titus Chung, who has served as Bishop of Singapore since 2020, was elected as the seventh archbishop and primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia on September 27.
The church includes dioceses in Malaysia and Singapore, as well as missionary deaneries in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal, and is thought to be the Anglican Communion’s fastest-growing province by Anglican Communion News Service.
The province has been involved in Anglican realignment for more than two decades, and follows a more centrist position among Global South churches, playing a leading role in the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) and participating actively in the Canterbury-based Instruments of Communion.
Chung, 57, will succeed Archbishop Melter Tais in February 2024, when his four-year term as primate ends. Tais will remain the Bishop of Sabah, one of the church’s four dioceses.
“I warmly welcome the election of Bishop Titus as the seventh Archbishop of the Church of the Province of South East Asia. His passion for the gospel and heart for evangelism will hold him in good stead as he follows his new calling,” said Anglican Communion Secretary General Anthony Poggo, who traveled to Singapore to lead a pre-convention retreat for the church’s leaders.
Chung is a systematic theologian who earned a doctorate in theology from the University of Edinburgh and taught for several years at Trinity Theological College in Singapore before becoming a bishop.
The diocese Chung leads is one of the Anglican Communion’s most vibrant and influential, notable for its charismatic zeal, conservative evangelical theology, and focus on mission and evangelism. According to church statistician David Goodhew, the number of Anglicans in Singapore increased fivefold from 1970 to 2000. Worship in the diocese’s cathedral is conducted in seven languages, and the diocese has established church plants in numerous South and Southeast Asian countries where there are only tiny numbers of indigenous Christians.
The province’s three other dioceses, Kuching, Sabah, and West Malaysia, are located in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where Archbishop Tais has been a prominent advocate for religious liberty. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Islamist groups hold increasing influence in the country’s conservative political parties, and Shariah provisions, including the criminalization of conversion from Islam and corporal punishment for modesty infractions, have been imposed at the state level.
The province of South East Asia has played an important role in Anglican realignment since the beginning, with former primate Moses Tay hosting and participating in the consecration of Chuck Murphy and John H. Rodgers Jr. as the first bishops in what became the Anglican Mission in the Americas in 2000.
Bishops from the province have participated in the GAFCON Movement, but in recent years have exercised leadership primarily through the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches. The Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah, who preceded Chung as Bishop of Singapore, is the director of the GSFA executive secretariat, and chaired the committee that produced the GSFA’s covenantal structure. The province is among 11 that have adopted the covenantal structure and become full members of the fellowship.
The province’s bishops expressed “deep disappointment” with the Church of England’s February decision to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, noting that they “unequivocally state that the blessing of same-sex unions has no biblical ground whatsoever, since Scripture teaches unambiguously that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
However, the bishops pointedly refused to follow many other Global South provinces in breaking communion with the Church of England over the decision: “Despite our grave reservations regarding the Church of England’s decision, we believe that the unity of the Anglican communion should not be lightly abandoned. Hence, we will remain in communion with the Church of England while praying fervently for her and speaking boldly for God’s truth.”
The Diocese of West Malaysia approved a statement at its July 26 synod second-guessing the February statement and calling on the province to declare impaired communion with the Church of England, “such that we are able to continue to welcome, share, work and collaborate on issues of mission, evangelism, faith and order with the individuals, churches, dioceses and agencies of the Church of England which are faithful and firm in upholding the provisions of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, while ceasing to work or share fellowship with those who do not.”