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Living the Christian faith

Rev. Charles Jansz, 50 years as a Minister and a former Head of Sri Lanka’s oldest Protestant Church

4 March 2021 02:32 am - 7     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Basically to the Christians, it would be a message to sincerely live out their Christian faith! As someone said, “Name Christian live Christian,” or as the Bible says, to live as the “salt, light and leaven”. To the wider society, it would be a message to live out the precepts of their respective religious faiths that call for love, acceptance, compassion, justice and peace, striving for a greater measure of ethnic and religious harmony. Right living divinely empowered can make it happen for ultimately, as the Bible says, “Righteousness (and only Righteousness) will exalt a nation!”

The “Born again” phenomenon, as you call it, is as old as the St. John Chapter 3! If people in Sri Lanka think that it is another cult or a sect, I think it is because of the way this wonderful Biblical concept has been marketed by certain people in keeping with their ecclesiastical agendas in addition to the poor understanding of what it biblically entails by the laity

I had to make it clear that the Bible emphasizes the truth that all Christians must be “born again” (“born from above”) in the sense that we must be “regenerated” by God’s Spirit and blessed with this “new birth and new life,” if we are to be saved from our sins and live Christianly

I stayed with the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka when many were led especially to emigrate so that in some measure I was able to put it further on the map both nationally and internationally

 


The Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka (formally known as the Dutch Reformed Church of Sri Lanka) is Sri Lanka’s oldest Protestant denomination. The first congregation of the Christian Reformed Church was founded by the Dutch East India Company in Galle in 1642. Rev. Charles Norton Jansz who will complete 50 years of service as an ordained minister of Christian Reform Church of Sri Lanka on 04th March 2021, has served as a pastor of Christian Reformed Church congregations in Dehiwala, Bambalapitiya, Kohuwala, Regent Street and Wolvendaal, Colombo. Rev. Jansz was born in Dehiwala in 1948 and was educated at Arethusa School, Wellawatta. After his graduation with a Bachelor of Theology degree at the Dutch Reformed Church Seminary, Rev. Jansz was ordained as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church of Sri Lanka on 04th March 1971. He obtained his postgraduate degree of Master of Divinity from the prestigious Calvin Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan, the USA in 1981. Rev. Jansz served as President of the Dutch Reformed Church of Sri Lanka for many years. Rev. Jansz married Maxine Herft in 1977. He has held key positions in Christian organizations in Sri Lanka and abroad. These include Chairperson of National Christian Council, Chairperson of Christian Evangelical Alliance, Chairperson of Religious Work Committee Colombo YMCA, Acting pastor in Christian Reform Church Ontario, Canada, Vice-President / Hon. Life Governor of Ceylon Bible Society, Member of Executive Committee of World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Chairperson of Asia Pacific Regional Board of United Bible Societies, Editor of “The Herald” - the official organ of the Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka. On the eve of the Golden Jubilee of his ministry, I interviewed Rev. Jansz. These are the excerpts of the interview:

 

It was one such Seminar that made a deep impression on me and even though I worked for a while (as a typist clerk) in the corporate world, I became restless enough to move out and make an application for the Pastoral Ministry. At that time, if one joined the Ministry – it was primarily Pastoral

 

Q What are your childhood memories of Dehiwela and its surroundings in the 1950s and 1960s?
I grew up in Sri Wanaratana Road, off Quarry Rd in Dehiwela. This area was called “Pattiyamulla” and as far as I remember, then changed to “Galwala” and “Udyana”. These were the days when houses had large gardens, almost all homes were single storeys and we children, irrespective of race, religion or status, had great times, playing, visiting each other’s homes, enjoying meals, climbing trees and walking on the wall surrounding the Zoological Gardens! The memories include going to the Presbyterian Girls’ School with a Carer, walking yards ahead of her, while she trudged behind carrying the school bag! Then there was attending Sunday School at the D/CRC Dehiwela almost every Sunday, followed by moving to Arethusa College where I completed my schooling. 
It was a time when I was given 25 cents, which covered my bus fare, had 12 cents for a quarter loaf of bread and a ‘vadai’ from the School Canteen (Tuck Shop) and had a few cents leftover! It was also a time when the area had loads of Burgher families…Nugara, Ludowyke, Neydorff, Woutersz, Kellart, Harris, De Kretser, Schokman, Van Ryke, Barrow, De Zilwa, Melder, Ferdinands, Heyn, Drieberg, Werksmister, Collom, Young, Van Rooyen, Van Sanden, Van Velzon, were all there and many of us met every spare moment for cricket, a little bit of rugby – with Cowboys and Crooks as a diversion. One other diversion was also catching “guppies” in the canal! Apart from Church, School and Cricket, from my childhood days I was passionate about politics…with a particular party bias! Was at almost every political public meeting, was part of the processions, shouting the slogans mouthed by the adults, and even had “mock” elections together with the rest of the friends for a 25 cent deposit! I vividly recall, on more than one occasion, my friends making a make-shift stage of Sunlight soapboxes and putting me on them, with what was supposed to be a mic and garlands as well, getting me to make political speeches – and in fluent Sinhala! (all of it picked up after listening to speakers at political meetings!!). 


There is much more of course…Dehiwela and where I grew up was unspoiled to a great extent…there were a caring and sharing, much respect and understanding for one another, your ethnicity, religion and status did not matter…we lived in a community… clean air and a pristine environment to a great extent….and if there was some discordance, it was someone shouting under the influence of some local brew! 

 


Q What are the changes and strides that you have witnessed in the social, political and religious milieu in Sri Lanka and the DRC and the non-Catholic Christendom in Sri Lanka and the world at large?
Changes and strides have been many, some certainly for the better, some for the worse! Talking about the religious milieu, one can single out that inter-faith and intra-faith have made comparatively good strides during the last number of years…there has also been a definite attempt to be “church” outside of the confines of a building reaching out to the community and certainly a concentrated effort to create and sustain spirituality beginning with the home. A greater emphasis on environmental stewardship has also been a pronounced plus. There has been also a good attempt to address the needs with the “wholeness” of the Gospel message, and to be faithful to the primary vision, not forgetting the strides made towards worship that is creative and meaningful with more participation. In the social and political sphere changes have not all been for the better! We have witnessed the resurgence and growth of bigotry, racism, fundamentalism, terrorism, violence, division, nepotism, political victimization, intolerance, corruption, lack of law and order, drug abuse, child abuse, destruction of the environment and a receding of the good family values….and certainly some, if not all of this would be part and parcel of the International milieu as well!

 


Q What motivated you to choose a pastoral ministry as your vocation in life?
The Church was very much part of my DNA…my family saw to it and encouraged me from my earliest of days to be part of it, beginning with the Sunday School, so much so that for many years running I carried away the attendance prize for attending every single Sunday of the Year! Besides, those who were part of my life in my childhood and teen years were also very much church-oriented. Youth Conferences, Youth programmes were all part of my life – in short anything that happened in Church. It was also a time when the Pastors at that time – especially the foreign “Missionaries” spent much time challenging us to consider full-time ministry. There were specific Seminars for this purpose. It was one such Seminar that made a deep impression on me…and even though I worked for a while (as a typist clerk) in the corporate world, I became restless enough to move out and make an application for the Pastoral Ministry. At that time, if one joined the Ministry – it was primarily Pastoral. Today Christian Ministry is very much more diversified when it comes to full-time service. Also, I think my gifts of public speaking and being a people person, added to the motivation to heed God’s call in this very specific way. 

 


Q  The percentage of Christians in Sri Lanka at the time of independence in 1948 was 9.1% but now it has decreased to 7.1%, and Hindus constituted 19% and now there are 11% Hindus. What do you think are the factors that contributed to this decline? Only two religious communities namely Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims have increased since Independence, Buddhists from 60.6 to 70 per cent and Muslims from 5% to 9.1% per cent. 
I must say that I was taken aback when you mentioned the statistics regarding the decrease and more when you did mention the percentages of the increase! Talking about the decline – specifically thinking about the Christian Reformed Church since Independence, one major factor was the emigration. Being at that time and for some years after, as primarily a “Burgher Community” Church, we did lose a large number of adherents through emigration.

(Thankfully, the Church did have and does have the vision to reach out to all communities and we have seen much growth in terms of numbers and congregations) Of course “emigration” has affected the wider Christian community and the Country as well. The other main reason for a decline, if not non-growth, is the absence of sustained missionary efforts, not so much in terms of “preaching” but more in term of “incarnational living” and an absence of addressing “felt needs” would also have perhaps made the Church irrelevant to many. So, if there is not to be further decline, I think we must ask the question – “Will we be genuinely missed in the Community if our Church were to close”?

 


Q You have completed 50 years in ministry. Looking back what do you think are the things or achievements that make you happy as a Clergyman?
As I look back there is a number of things that can make me glad…for one thing and this is primary, that the Lord who called me and kept me and sustained me through these many years…empowering me to avoid the many pitfalls that could be part of a ministry and blessing me with a great measure of good health. Then there is the joy of seeing people walking in faith and obedience…lives changed…becoming spiritually mature and having a place for God in their lives and especially in their families and children. I have always said that if people, respond and live by the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is very much part of the Reformed Confessions (What is your only comfort in life and death? – And “That I with body and soul both in life and death belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ”) … that would always be my greatest satisfaction. Of course, in a lesser way, I am also glad that I stayed with the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka when many were led especially to emigrate so that in some measure I was able to put it further on the map both nationally and internationally and give back in some way what the CRC has given me – even to the extent of financially sustaining me and my family when I was growing up. 

 


Q You have served in many positions in the ecumenical bodies here and abroad. You studied at Calvin Seminary in the US, one of the prestigious Protestant theological schools. What do you think are the changes that have taken place in Christendom in the Eastern world and the western world since the 1960s.
I must say at the outset that it was a great privilege for me to serve in these Ecumenical bodies and study at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is known as the “Jerusalem” of the Reformed World and it added to the prestige of being there! Most of the changes in Christendom in the East and West, I think, have been fairly common…Theologically, it would involve the principles of the Interpretation of the Scriptures, the Ordination of Women to Ecclesiastical Office, the changed stance reissues of homosexuality, gay rights and same-sex marriages….more inter-faith and intra-faith action, dialogue and involvement, greater emphasis on caring for the environment and social and ethical issues …more pronounced division between Conservatives and Liberals, and the Church striving to be a truly prophetic voice, for transformation, despite pronounced oppression. 

 


Q There is a decline of Christianity in the West since the 1960s and this has affected the Christian family values. How do you explain this with your international exposure for 50 years since 1960?
It is certainly sad to see the decline you mention – especially in Europe where Churches and Cathedrals have become more or fewer museum pieces and sometimes converted to restaurants and entertainment centres. I have heard it often said, whilst at one time the West sent missionaries to us, now it is time to send Missionaries to them! I have heard that in many countries in the West, the Church is no longer relevant to people. So children are not baptized. And there are no weddings or funerals in which the Church is involved. Religion and faith are not part of life anymore and it is only the elderly, if at all, who make up a congregation. 


I believe that the overall reason has to do with a materialistic and very secularistic lifestyle and culture that has become part of the DNA of many. They are, to use a Bible phrase, more interested in building treasures on earth than in Heaven. On the other hand, I must quickly add that the Church must also strive to be relevant to the people of today. We must be, to use the motto of “Youth for Christ.” – “geared to the times and anchored to the Rock” If the Church does not meet the felt needs of people, and be relevant, the Church and Christianity per se will become irrelevant to people. And that would not be only in the West. 

 


Q There is a discussion on the “born again” phenomenon in social media these days, particularly after one particular Pentecostal church published a video on the miraculous healing of a veteran musician. Can you explain the history and origins of the “born again” phenomenon in the Western world and Sri Lanka? Many people in S L think that it is a new cult or a sect.
May I say that the “Born again” phenomenon, as you call it, is as old as the St. John Chapter 3! If people in Sri Lanka think that it is another cult or a sect, I think it is because of the way this wonderful Biblical concept has been marketed by certain people in keeping with their ecclesiastical agendas in addition to the poor understanding of what it biblically entails by the laity. I remember someone asking me a few years ago, whether the Christian Reformed Church at Dehiwela is a “Born Again” Church! I had to make it clear that the Bible emphasizes the truth that all Christians must be “born again” (“born from above”) in the sense that we must be “regenerated” by God’s Spirit and blessed with this “new birth and new life,” if we are to be saved from our sins and live Christianly. In fact, the term “regenerated” comes from two Greek words, that can literally be translated as “born again.” But not too many people think of regeneration when they hear the term “born again”! That is made possible when we are led to make a faith commitment and believe in Jesus as our Saviour. It is very clear that our “old nature” will not pursue the things of God, only our “new nature” would make that possible and that becomes a reality when we are “born again”. It is primarily a reference to our spiritual birth. That is the starting line of Christian life. If we have not stood at the starting line, running the race, to use another Biblical metaphor, would not be possible.

 


Q The Peace, tranquillity and tolerance in Sri Lankan society have been disturbed by the religious and racist extremism of some groups in recent times. Can you comment?
I would agree with you that until recently there was a great degree of tolerance, but that has changed as you mentioned. Of course, this is not a phenomenon only involving a particular religion or race. Society generally has become intolerant and this is not only in terms of other faiths but also In many other or all areas of life. Take a journey on our roads – you will be met by intolerance at its best!! The growth of bigotry and fundamentalism, a false sense of nationalism and patriotism, selfishness, egotism etc, some of it fanned by Political and even Religious leadership in different ways, to fulfil their own pursuits, would be a primary cause. Whilst not living out the principles of the respective religions would be another. On the other hand, talking of the Church, we must be careful that our actions and strategies do not give room to further intolerance. And we must strive not to offend. 

 


Q How do you see the future of Christians in Sri Lanka? And what do you think are the most important and urgent reforms that are necessary for churches and in society.
Certainly, from a human point of view and the present context, there would be many challenges ahead as far as Christians are concerned. And the call would always be to be creatively faithful to our mission, claiming again the Lord’s good promise that “even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.” In terms of reforms involving the church, we must move away from worship that is merely a spectacle and a gospel that is being distorted. We have more Pastors who follow the Master! As far as Society goes, religious belief must play a more significant role in daily life. In all areas of life, we do not need more preachers, but we do urgently need more of those who practice! I must quickly add that in terms of urgent reforms in Society there must be some good and meaningful work to reform some of our existing laws to deal more relevantly and specifically with issues that are part and parcel of life today, that it turns would make justice what it really should be! Two areas that come to mind which are being debated more recently are the Election laws and the Law involving contempt of court….not forgetting Constitutional reforms in general, Institutional reforms for the protection of fundamental rights and economic reforms which would result, as someone said, with an economy with a “human face”. 

 


Q Do you have any message to the Christians in Sri Lanka and to the wider society? 
 Basically to the Christians, it would be a message to sincerely live out their Christian faith! As someone said, “Name Christian live Christian,” or as the Bible says, to live as the “salt, light and leaven”. To the wider society, it would be a message to live out the precepts of their respective religious faiths that call for love, acceptance, compassion, justice and peace, striving for a greater measure of ethnic and religious harmony. Right living divinely empowered can make it happen for ultimately, as the Bible says, “Righteousness (and only Righteousness) will exalt a nation!”

 

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  Comments - 7

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  • Mike Revere Thursday, 04 March 2021 10:09 AM

    Christians are commanded to live at peace with all men. Heb.12,14 A map of Singapore shows how close by are the Hindu temple, theological college, Buddhist vihara and churches. On the other side is China town. Prosperity visible. Jesus' blood paid for all sins of world. Wants all to be karma free.

    Rev.Nicholas Jesudasan ,Lighthouse church Thursday, 04 March 2021 06:30 PM

    Congratulations to you my dearest Reverend Charles N.Janz for completing 50 years in the full time Pastoral ministry. Many more happy Long Healthy years ahead of you. You are a Great Assert and a Blessing Not only to the Christian Reform church but also to the entire churches in Sri Lanka .I wish you all the best with God"s heavenly blessings upon your completion of Half century in the God"s vineyard.

    Aluviare Friday, 05 March 2021 01:06 AM

    Convert more people and more money to the church. Simple as that.

    DillonDP Friday, 05 March 2021 04:23 AM

    Congratulations pastor Janz (fondly called by many as uncle Charlie) for completing 50 years in the full time Pastoral ministry, May god bless you with many more happy and healthy years ahead of you. It was both a blessing and opportunity to have listened to your sermons, Thank you for everything!

    drvajra sharma Friday, 05 March 2021 07:14 AM

    Moral behaviour and family values of Christians have been destroyed by Hollywood. The Born-again Christians' false-healing claims have made most people dislike the religion. The end-timers aka Zionist Christians have enabled spread of hate and destruction of many countries in Asia and the middle east. Churches are being converted to brothels in Israel.

    Kumar Friday, 05 March 2021 10:14 PM

    Do they provide holy service at the converted facilities

    Alane van Cuylenburg Friday, 05 March 2021 10:54 AM

    Congratulations Rev Charles in your walk with the Lord n spreading the word to the believers . May u carry on ur Christian walk in Jesus name Hans n Alane


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