At its meeting in September 2023 in Negombo, Sri Lanka, the international UEM Council elected Rev. Dr Andar Parlindungan as UEM’s new General Secretary. Martina Pauly, UEM Spokesperson, met the new General Secretary elect for an interview:
Rev. Dr Parlindungan, how do you feel in this moment, only some hours after the decision of the Council to appoint you as the next General Secretary of UEM?
I feel happy, tired, relieved – everything at the same time. I have seen that this is God’s plan for me and also for UEM and I am very thankful for everything that I experienced today as the newly elected General Secretary of the United Evangelical Mission.
How is it for you to change the perspective from being a member of the UEM board to a candidate applying for a new position within the same organization?
I think the role has changed because the role of leadership will be even larger and the responsibility, I believe, will be even bigger. Besides, I think it is also a good chance for UEM to have someone from inside of the organization to continue the good work that the current General Secretary has done for the past seven years.
What was your main motivation to apply for this leading position on the next level?
My main motivation is inspired by God’s call to me to go and serve the Lord. My second motivation is indeed to strengthen the internationality and interculturality of UEM. And third, I am motivated by the meaningful work of UEM and even by the historical mission in the 19th and 20th centuries, here I am really motivated by the life’s work of the former German missionaries who came to my homeland.
You are the first General Secretary coming from the Asia region. Do you think that there is a difference between an Asian UEM General Secretary and your predecessors coming from Germany and Africa, for example regarding the leading style or communication?
Yes indeed, everyone had his own character and style. But I think that if we have a similar motivation, the difference wouldn’t be of any importance because we are quite sure that in diversity we are going to be able to reach the unity, mutual understanding and the good governance in UEM.
May we know a little more about your professional and family background for those people who do not yet know you?
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I grew up in my country of birth. I am married to my wife Reyni Lasmida Panjaitan and we are blessed with three kids. I am quite sure that my family will support me in this new role since as a family we are happy to start this new phase in UEM.
Regarding my professional background, I started my studies at the Theological Seminary of HKBP in Pematangsiantar where I got my bachelor in theology. After that I graduated with a master degree in theology from the Luther Seminary in Saint Paul in the United States of America. Then I completed my doctor of theology at the University of Theology in Hamburg in Germany.
All of my academic background has been focused on the issue of interreligious and interfaith relations. My concern focusses on the people who grew up as Christians among Muslims as the largest population in Indonesia. These academic backgrounds set up my works as a pastor in some congregations in Indonesia and in Germany. I have worked mostly at UEM as the head of department “Global Program I”, which is mainly focused on educational and learning enterprises in global perspectives.
Do you already see a main challenge that you will face at the beginning of your term as General Secretary?
Personally, the position of General Secretary will give me new challenges in terms of management, leadership and also in terms of communication and creating networks. These are new challenges which I probably did not experience to the same extent in my position as Executive Secretary but I am looking forward to coping with these new challenges as General Secretary.
Within UEM, we have faced a serious challenge of financial situation through static and decreasing donations and financial contributions due to the global inflation, membership decline of the churches in Germany, social and political turbulences in many parts of the world. However, we are not simply passive in view of this unfortunate reality. UEM has deliberated persistently on how to sustain our good working quality despite of financial challenges. We are on the good way to transform our working structures and relationships, which should prevent us from any challenges in terms of any stereotype, discrimination and old mentalities of givers and receiver.
What are you most looking forward to as General Secretary elect of UEM?
As General Secretary elect of UEM I am looking forward first to working together with our 39 members, and not only with them but also with the interfaith communities, the governments and NGOs. Besides, I am looking forward to seeing how my position as General Secretary will enable me to work with networks and to build-up new networks for UEM.
Do you have any message as General Secretary elect for the member churches and/or the colleagues in the UEM offices in Wuppertal, Daressalaam and Pematangsiantar?
First of all I would like to extend my gratitude and my thankfulness to all members of UEM in Africa, Asia and Germany and to all staff in Wuppertal, Daressalaam and Pematangsiantar for their support and also for their prayers. I am looking forward to cooperating more intensively with all of you. I wish you all the best for the continuation of our ministries in UEM and wherever you are, I am open to communicate with you. Let us support one another!
Thank you very much, General Secretary elect!
Personal details: Rev. Dr. Andar Parlindungan
The 47-year-old theologian and father of three children comes from Indonesia's largest Protestant church, Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP), and is currently a member of the board of the UEM. Here he has been responsible for international education work as head of the "Program I" department since 2014. He will assume the position of General Secretary on March 1, 2024, and thus the function of chairman of the board of the international communion of churches. As General Secretary of the UEM, he will continue to have his office in the Mission House in Wuppertal. His term of office will be eight years.
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