By Rev. Dr. Krikor Youmshajekian, AMA-Australia President/CEO
July 1 marks the 174th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebrations will be limited and it will be only organised by local churches around the world, whether virtual or small gatherings due to social distancing. Unfortunately, there will be no worldwide celebrations, where evangelical lay and clergy leaders, with many members of the evangelical community from around the world come together in one place for worship and praise.
However, regardless of the situation, Armenian Evangelicals around the world should be reminded that 174 years ago a group of dedicated believers came together in Istanbul, Turkey to lay down the foundations of the vibrant Church of the current times. With the dedication of committed members, the Armenian Evangelical Church has embarked and continue to be a missional church, emphasising the importance of the community being engaged in mission and treasuring the Protestant notion of “the priesthood of all believers.” The Armenian Evangelical Church also insists on the active participation of the whole church in ecclesiastical affairs and religious life. As a consequence, neither in worship nor in Christian service in the community is the individual believer reduced to the status of an observer. Rather, the individual assumes a central, leading role in the religious life of the church, achieving personal fulfilment as an active participant.
The Armenian Evangelical Church understands the mission of the church as fundamental and believes that the ministry is the work of the entire church. God’s call is to all people. The mission of the church belongs to the whole people (laos) of God. Moreover, the task of witness is that of the whole community of God’s people. In the church, there are many different gifts and many different stages of maturity, but the work to which the church is called requires the witness of every member in the place where he/she lives and works, engaging in “total ministry.” This is a vision of the ministry of the whole people of God (the church) in which ministries of all members integrate with one another and in which leadership is a function of the whole body. From the human point of view, the power and effectiveness of the church lies in the dedication, leadership, and involvement of its people. There is one ministry in Jesus Christ, and all the members, lay and ordained, participate in it according to the gifts given to them. This represents the body, the church, as a ministering community.
The Armenian Evangelical Church became a mission-minded church, valuing evangelism highly and regarded evangelists as having a special calling within the life of the church. It is a fact, that the church did not always succeed to be the “mission church,” but it is also an unquestionable fact that it tried to impress upon its members that the divine calling of every believer is to serve God through daily work, be it secular or ecclesiastical. The Armenian Evangelical Church held the view that, as a community of believers, it had an obligation to work in its respective communities for the creation of a caring and loving society.
Hence, the Armenian Evangelical Church since its establishment in 1846 has been a missionary church and as a result, founded the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) in Worcester, Massachusetts (USA) in 1918. Since then, the AMAA with its District Bodies in Canada and Australia, along with the different Evangelical Unions, has worked hard and served as the missionary arm of the church, spreading the Good News and extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters around the world and in particular, in Armenia, Artsakh, Lebanon and Syria.
What the Armenian Evangelical Church and the AMAA have achieved during the years, is the result of faith, commitment and the hard work of dedicated faithful servants of God. Today, we salute them all and pay our respect to the Armenian Evangelical Church, and we believe that the church will maintain its mission and strive for excellence in its outreach, obeying the great command of the Lord Jesus Christ, to go and proclaim the gospel.
The legacy of the early reformers for us today and the upcoming generations of Armenian Evangelicals, is to be proud of our Armenian heritage, because we can build upon past values and learn from them. It is this heritage that binds Armenians together, because the deep roots of their Armenian heritage have withstood dislocation, persecution and oppression.
Congratulations to the Armenian Evangelical Church. Congratulations to its dedicated leaders, missionaries and supporters of the mission. God bless!
Featured Image: The First Armenian Evangelical Church Council July 1, 1846