Mon, 10 Oct 1994

Church assembly will help settle HKBP row

JAKARTA (JP): The two opposing camps of the Toba Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) have been invited to this month's grand assembly of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI).

The assembly, scheduled for Oct. 21 through 30 in Irian Jaya's capital of Jayapura, will help the disputing camps find solutions to their long-standing problems, J.M. Pattiasina, the PGI's Secretary General said last week.

"The assembly will help find ways to accelerate solving the conflict in an effort to reunify the divided congregation," he said.

Pattiasina previously told The Jakarta Post that PGI hoped that HKBP would end internal bickering before the gathering began in order for them to send just one delegation.

The Sumatra-based HKBP, the country's largest Christian church, has been in crisis since 1990 after government suspicions about it fomenting political unrest.

A pro-government bishop, P.W.T. Simanjuntak was appointed in late 1992 but was rejected by many of the 2.5 million church members who support the ousted bishop, S.A.E. Nababan.

Pattiasina said the PGI has tried mediating in the dispute and called the opposing camps to a talk in Jakarta last month. A second meeting was reportedly held in Tarutung, North Sumatra last week.

This month's assembly, to be opened by Vice President Try Sutrisno, is to bring about 2,000 church leaders from both Indonesia and abroad.

Pattiasina said the Grand Assembly is expected to forge a greater unity among the various church members and reinvigorate the teaching of Christianity.

It will also draw up a five-year plan for the PGI, which will be disseminated to church followers through the PGI's regional branches and denomination members.

The PGI has members from Protestant denominations, including the larger ones, the Toba Batak Protestant Church, the Gereja Kristen Indonesia and Gereja Kristen Maluku. The churches grouped in the communion are the 68 Indonesian Protestant denominations of the Lutheran, Pentecostal, Reform, Mennonite, Methodist and Calvinist religious groups.

Protestantism is the second largest religion in Indonesia, accounting for nearly six percent of Indonesia's 190 million people. Moslems represent the largest with about 87 percent. Roman Catholicism follows third after Protestantism.(imn)