In 2013, the Southeast Asia Network for the Gospel began when a small group of missionaries came together to organize an annual conference to think about ministry issues in the Southeast Asia context from a Reformed perspective. At that time, the name “Southeast Asia Reformed Network” was chosen in order to represent the cultural/geographic context that we were working in, and the theological framework that would guide us. However, during the first couple years of the network’s existence, it was discovered that the word “Reformed” has both advantages and drawbacks, which alternatively attracted or discouraged people from coming to the conferences and benefiting from the online and networking resources that we had available.
Positively, the “Reformed” label attracts those who self-identify as Reformed, both those from confessionally-Reformed church backgrounds (such as Presbyterian or Dutch Reformed) as well as those who see themselves as being part of the broader “Reformed” movement, meaning those who embrace Calvinism as the best expression of Biblical Christianity and believe that a return to the Solas of the Protestant Reformation is the best way forward for churches today. In many ways, “Reformed” is a convenient label that quickly communicates the theological convictions of the network and tells people what to expect.
However, it came to light that the label “Reformed” was also a stumbling block for some. Some people saw the word “Reformed” and incorrectly concluded that the conference and network were only for those from Reformed churches, meaning denominations which trace their roots back to the Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands. Still other people liked what they saw from afar, but hesitated to get involved because they come from church or mission backgrounds where “Reformed” Christianity is not seen in a positive light. Still others were not really sure what “Reformed” means and thus concluded that maybe this conference is not for them.
Does the “Reformed” label ultimately help or hurt? Does it attract more people than it drives away? The goal of the network is to apply a biblical worldview (which we consider to be synonymous with a Reformed or Calvinistic worldview) to ministry in Southeast Asia. We believe that what the network has to offer is beneficial to Christians in a wide variety of ministry and ecclesiastical settings, and it was decided that changing the network’s name from “Reformed” to “Gospel” would open the way for a broader group of people to participate in the conference and network.
Although some may question the decision to drop the word “Reformed” in the name of the network, this change is not a “watering down” of our vision or theological direction. Our doctrinal statement remains the same, and all speakers and presenters at Southeast Asia Network for the Gospel Conference, and all contributors to the website are required to be in agreement with this statement.
Going forward, we are hopeful that the Southeast Asia Network for the Gospel can make a positive contribution to mission and ministry in Southeast Asia, stimulating missionaries and local believers from many places and backgrounds to accurately apply Scripture in their own settings for the glory of God and the joy of His people.