Over the next couple of weeks the Cambodia team are planning on reflecting on their thoughts/ experiences/insights from their trip. In the first of the series Hannah Royal gives some background on the Anglican Church of Cambodia….
Cambodia’s modern history has been fraught with genocide and war, leaving a very young population (median age of 24) and a decimated educational system. Cambodia continues to struggle with unresolved grief and trauma, generational PTSD, corruption, poverty, human trafficking, and family dysfunction. Less than 3% of the population identifies as protestant Christian.
In light of this history, the Anglican Church of Cambodia (ACC) is a relatively young and growing denomination. The ACC currently falls under the leadership of the Diocese of Singapore (Provence of West Malaysia) as one of 6 deaneries. About 20 years ago, the diocese started planting churches in these deaneries and today there are 104 congregations and 10,000 people worshipping in 6 countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam). The vision is to see these deaneries become “self-propagating, self-governing and self-supporting Anglican Diocese that will faithfully witness for Christ until He returns.”
It was in 1992 that the diocese of Singapore bought a two story villa in Phnom Penh and the following year that they sent their first priest to plant a church. Today, Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Our Peace (CCOP), led by Rev. Tit Hieng, also acts as the main office of the ACC. The Khmer congregation has a current average Sunday attendance of around the 60 people. In addition to leading his own congregation at CCOP, Rev. Tit Hieng travels to the rural areas to evangelize and to support the churches led by lay leaders. He is the only ordained Anglican Khmer priest in Cambodia. There is also an international congregation led by American missionary Rev. Gregory Whitaker. At 150 strong, they have outgrown the original building and are now meeting in a rented space, which they have also outgrown… so they are moving again in January. Jesse and Sarah Blaine are a part of this vibrant congregation, along with many other missionaries, NGO staff and diplomatic personnel living in Phnom Penh. In total there are 10 Anglican congregations, worshipping each week in Khmer, English and Chinese.
Due to the growing numbers, aging building (4 floods in the past 3 months), and mission to expand the Anglican church in the region, the ACC is undergoing a building project on the current site of CCOP. With the hopes of building a larger space for worship, offices and classrooms, they also desire to plant additional churches in Phnom Penh and continue their work of training up clergy and supporting the rural churches in 6 provinces. In many ways, we at Restoration can identify with this “stage of life”!
The ACC is thinking strategically about the future and has hopes of expanding their youth ministries, university and dorm ministries, as well as vocational ministries. This includes English language and skills training (computer, industrial and hospitality skills). We repeatedly heard from church leaders in Cambodia that “the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” One of the biggest needs for the ACC is educating and training clergy. There is great need for resource development, discipleship training, pastoral care training and clergy support.
We are excited to see how God uses the partnership between Restoration and the ACC for the spread of the Gospel in Cambodia. Please continue to pray for the Anglican Church of Cambodia, the Diocese of Singapore, Rev. Tit Hieng, Rev. Gregory Whitaker, and the Blaine family.