Oral History of Timothy Tow Siang Hui, Founder of Singapore Bible-Presbyterianism and Far Eastern Bible College
The Rev Dr Timothy Tow (1920–2009) is the founding father of the Bible-Presbyterian Church (BPC) in Singapore and by extension Southeast Asia. He also founded the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC). He was pastor, theologian and missionary, encapsulating the duties of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20).
In 1950, after he returned from America with his theological degree from Faith Theological Seminary, and moved by the 20th Century Reformation Movement under the Rev Dr Carl McIntire, he founded the very first BPC in Singapore which is Life Bible-Presbyterian Church. In 1962, FEBC opened its doors with him as the first Principal. As the Rev Dr Paul Contento of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) had said when he laid the foundation stone of FEBC, “Without the Bible College, the Church would die”, FEBC was used by the Lord to nurture those called to full-time ministry who have become pastors, teachers and missionaries of the Bible-Presbyterian denomination and movement. There are now 43 BPCs in Singapore (as of 2020), not counting those in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world (Africa, Australia, Canada, China, India, UK).
It is 70 years since the BPC in Singapore was founded. It is timely that the story of her founder and her founding be revisited. This special issue of The Burning Bush features the transcript of the interviews the Oral History Centre had with the Rev Dr Timothy Tow in 1998.
Besides this special edition, readers are also directed to other special issues of this journal that record the life and times of the Rev Dr Timothy Tow, and the testimonies of those who have been blessed by his life and ministry: “Essays in Honour of Timothy Tow” (July 2000), “Truth Unfailing: A Tribute to Alma Mater” (July 2002), “I Remember Timothy Tow” (July 2010), “FEBC’s Golden Jubilee: 50 Years Holding Fast the Faithful Word” (January/July 2012), “Purified Seven Times: In Thanksgiving for God’s Preservation of the King James Bible and the Far Eastern Bible College” (July 2015). A CD-Rom containing Rev Tow’s articles in his church weekly, books, hymns/songs, sermons, yearbooks, videos, interviews can be found in “He Being Dead Yet Speaketh: Remembering the Life and Teachings of Pastor Timothy Tow on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving of True Life Bible-Presbyterian (2003–2013)”. All the resources above are accessible from the Timothy Tow Memorial Library, Far Eastern Bible College, 9A Gilstead Road, Singapore 309063, and from FEBC’s and True Life BPC’s websites (www.febc.edu.sg, www.truelifebpc.org.sg).
Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore
The Oral History Centre within the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) was the brainchild of the late Dr Goh Keng Swee. As a member of the first Cabinet, Dr Goh laid the foundation of Singapore’s economic progress and developed the defence forces. Established in 1979, the Oral History Centre captures the memories of diverse groups of people for the benefit of future generations of Singaporeans.
It was against this backdrop that the Rev Dr Timothy Tow (1920–2009) gave separate oral interviews with the NAS in 1984 on the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II, and in 1998 on his life and ministry in Life Bible-Presbyterian Church and Far Eastern Bible College, spanning over five hours.
The one hour of recording on the Japanese Occupation has an English transcript which is available from the National Archives of Singapore (http://www.nas.gov.sg). The 1998 recordings however had no transcript until now. With these transcripts, it is hoped that future generations of Singaporeans and scholars will have a better understanding of their origins and history. It is hoped that when they study the history of their Church, Bible-Presbyterians will have a better understanding of their founder—the Rev Dr Timothy Tow. When read together with the numerous well-documented books written by Rev Tow, it is hoped that Christians, especially Bible-Presbyterians, will remember and not forget where they came from, who they are and what they stood for.
The 1998 interviews were done by Patricia Lee, Senior Oral History Specialist at the Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore. The transcript was prepared by Wong Shuk Min. You can read them all in the special July 2020 edition of The Burning Bush—Theological Journal of the Far Eastern Bible College.
Get your copy from the FEBC Bookroom free of charge. To God be the glory!
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