Promotion Roy Alexander Surjanegara: Power in Reformed Polity

1 March 2022

On Tuesday 1 March Roy Alexander Surjanegara will receive his PhD at the PThU (promotors: prof.dr. L.J. Koffeman and dr. E.G. Singgih). The title of the thesis is: The Issue of Power in Reformed Polity in Indonesian Churches.

Characteristic features of Indonesian Reformed churches

Roy’s research project is an attempt to describe the characteristic features of Indonesian Reformed Churches’ polity, especially in how they articulate the notion of authority. Roy has taken three churches to represent different factions of Reformed churches in Indonesia:

  • Gereja Masehi Injili di Timor (GMIT) representing churches stemming from the Indische Kerk tradition,
  • Gereja Kristen Sumba (GKS) representing churches stemming from the missionary bodies, and
  • Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) representing churches stemming from local initiatives.

Articulating power in polity

In his dissertation, Roy draws comparisons between the features of Indonesian Reformed Church’s polity, the church’s historical and cultural background, and the church order, analysing how Reformed churches in Indonesia articulate power in their polity. Most notably, he has found that the ideal of unity is prevalent in these churches, which characterises the way they develop their polity. In Indonesian Reformed Churches, the ideal of unity became a very authoritative notion, as well as a strong meeting point between a theological ideal and the nation’s cultural ideal. This may explain why ecumenical theology was very appealing to Indonesian churches, because it provided the most theologically accountable and culturally compatible explanation for their desire for unity. We also see that Indonesian churches tend to place an emphasis on organisational unity and living out their unity.

Ecumenical credibility and organisational integrity

Reformed churches in Indonesia identify themselves as having a strong desire for unity. They have a highly hierarchical and centralistic structures, and they conduct ministry with an emphasis on organisational accountability. In the polity of Indonesian Reformed churches, authority is articulated by emphasising church unity through the language of ecumenical credibility and organisational integrity.

Roy’s personal motivation

Involved in church activity from his teenage years, Roy has often found himself fascinated by people’s perception towards the church order. Mostly it would have to do with themselves as the younger generation debating or disagreeing with some policy the church council had decided, or contradiction regarding which songs are we allowed to sing at church, and so on. But he never really gave it serious consideration afterwards. During his Master’s study, he chose the subject of church polity purely out of curiosity. Roy was never really aware of church polity as an academic theological field. He cynically thought it was one of those courses you took if you want to be a bishop. From then, he came to realise that many of his previous conceptions (appreciation or dread) towards church order were incorrect. In the past, many churches in Indonesia have seen church order more as a classical text or tradition that needs to be preserved. Roy wants to invite more people to appreciate church polity more as an effort of doing theology in context.

About Roy Alexander Surjanegara

Roy Alexander Surjanegara was born in Jakarta on 22 May 1979. Roy is the first son of Peter Gunawan Surjanegara and Mega Tjhen. He is married to Melvy, and father of Rafael, Cecile, and Marvel. He graduated from Jakarta Theological Seminary (now STFT – Jakarta) in 2002, and was ordained as Minister of the Word in Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) in 2005. From 2003-2008 he served in GKI Tanggamus (Lampung), 2009-2018 in GKI Maulana Yusuf (Bandung), and 2018-present in GKI Perth – Uniting Church (Australia). In 2008 he received a Master’s degree from the PThU.. From 2009-2018 he was involved in the emancipatory partnership between PKN and Indonesian churches.

Livestream promotion Roy Alexander Surjanegara
You can follow the promotion live via YouTube from 1 March, 9 AM CET

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