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Late Bishop 'preaches' at his own funeral

Published on: Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: The funeral of fifth Anglican Bishop of Sabah, Rt Rev Datuk Albert Vun Cheong Fui, on Friday, was unique and perhaps the first of its kind in Malaysia - it included a pre-recorded video that was played on a screen of himself preaching forgiveness and giving all to God, among other Christian virtues.

The service at the All Saints Cathedral, here, was also televised live to the packed Hosanna Hall nearby.

"Those who have no sin, let him cast the first stone," Rt Rev Datuk Albert Vun said in the recording, recalling a parable in which Jesus told a gang of men who sought His view on whether to stone a woman to death for adultery.

According to the Gospel, all the men eventually threw away their stones and the woman was set free. In the recording, probably done in the last period of his ill health, the late Vun said:

"How many of you here have never stolen any money in your life, please raise your hands.

I would like to meet you. Not even one? You all look so upright. The church should not be a place where some people felt condemned because the people in church looked as if they've never sinned."

Vun inferred that as a kid he made off with some money from his grandmother, and stressed that only Jesus was blameless.

He cited a real case of a lady who stole money from the church collection and people wanted to condemn her.

"I had to intervene as Bishop as the church pastor was inexperienced how to resolve the matter. He stressed on forgiveness and freedom as from the new dispensation of the law.

His widow Datin Mary Vun said her husband had wanted to be the first Bishop of Sabah to serve and die in office. He was consecrated and installed as the 5th Anglican Bishop of Sabah on April 25, 2006 and led the church for eight years, having started his ministry in Beaufort right up to Tawau before he served as Senior Pastor (Priest-in-charge and then Rector) of Good Samaritan Church from 1985-1990, then as Rector of St Patrick's Church, Tawau from 1990 to 2006. In the Sabah Diocese, the Anglican Church has an over 300-strong congregation every Sunday.

"My husband would have been very happy to see this huge turnout.

He can see this in heaven where he is happy in God's company. He was never bitter about all the slander or the abandonment by some that he faced, and he wanted you all to know that he forgave all who wronged him," Mary said at the thanksgiving eulogy for her husband's life saying that God's timing was always perfect for God's purpose, after her sons have spoken of their father's life lessons for them.

Rt Rev Datuk Albert Vun was a member of the House of Bishop, led by Anglican Archbishop for Southeast Asia Rt Rev Datuk Bolly Lapok of Sarawak.

With his passing, the House of Bishop is left with three members who are crucial in the appointment of the new Bishop of Sabah with the inputs by the House of the Clergy and the House of the Laity.

Rt Rev Datuk Bolly praised the strong character of the late Vun and said at the funeral eulogy that, "The House of Bishop is never the same again without Albert.

We will miss him."

Bolly led the Anglican clergy in Vun's funeral service, and told the congregation to reflect on what that they would have wanted to say to their late bishop or in asking for forgiveness and that it's time for a new chapter in the church's history, after the legacy of Vun's leadership.

The House of Bishop in the meantime could appoint a bishop or a Vicar-General to oversee the Sabah Diocese, pending deliberation and election of the 6th Sabah Anglican Bishop.

Christian ministers and politicians who attended the funeral included Datuk Mary Yap, Datuk Michael Asang, and Datuk Yee Moh Chai. A church spokesman said Datuk Teo Chee Kang represented the Sabah State Government. Rt Rev Rennis Ponniah, Anglican Bishop of Singapore also present.

The first Sabah Anglican Bishop of the Diocese after Merdeka was Rt Rev James Wong Chang Ling originally from Hong Kong (1962-1965), followed by second Sabah Anglican Bishop Rt Rev Tan Sri Roland Koh Peck-Chiang from Sandakan (1965-1970), third was Rt Rev Luke Chhoa Heng Sze from Penang (1971-1990), fourth was Rt Rev Datuk Yong Ping Chung from Semporna (1990-2006) who was instrumental in Vun's appointment as the 5th Sabah Anglican Bishop.