The Methodist work began in this area with the arrival of William F. Oldham in Singapore on February 7, 1885. He was accompanied by Dr. James M. Thoburn (later Bishop), Methodist missionary in India, and they were to undertake the first foreign mission work of the Indian Methodist Church. Dr. Thoburn preached the first sermon at the Singapore Town Hall the next day.
The work of the Methodists under Oldham grew in several directions. Linguistically the work begun in English was extended to Tamil, Chinese and Malay. Geographically, new work started in key towns along the Malay Peninsular. Methodism came to Sarawak in East Malaysia with the arrival of Methodists from China in 1901. Missionaries extended the work there. Work also started amongst the indigenous peoples in East and West Malaysia.
In 1950 Methodists in Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma formed the South-Eastern Asia Central Conference, a part of the General Conference of the Methodist Church (USA). In 1968 the General Conference granted the constitution of the affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore.
The Rev. Dr. Yap Kim Hao was elected the first Bishop of the autonomous church in 1968. The Rev. Theodore R. Doaraisamy was elected in 1973 to succeed him.
In December 1976, the Methodist Church in Malaysia and the Methodist Church in Singapore were constituted following the formation of an independent Singapore.
The Rev. C. N. Fang was elected the first Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, serving for three terms from 1976 – 1988. The Rev. Dr. Denis C. Dutton was elected Bishop in 1988 and served for two terms. He was followed by the Rev. Dr. Peter Chio Sing Ching, elected Bishop in 1996. The current Bishop is the Rev. Dr. Hwa Yung, elected in 2004.
The Methodist Church in Malaysia is comprised of six Annual Conferences – the Chinese Annual Conference, Tamil Annual Conference and Trinity Annual Conference in West Malaysia; the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, the Sarawak Iban Annual Conference and the Sabah Provisional Annual Conference in East Malaysia – and one Mission Conference – the Sengoi Mission Conference. These cover the main language groups as well as some of the indigenous peoples of the country.
It has a membership of 98,000 adults and about 60,000 preparatory members below 16 years old. The World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford: 2001) estimates the total number affiliated with the Methodist Church in Malaysia at 230,000 persons. This makes it one of the three largest Protestant churches in the country.
The Union of Myanmar (Burma) is geographically situated in Southeast Asia, with an estimated population of 47.25 million. There are 135 national races of which the main ethnic groups are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Buddhism is the religion of the population with 89.3 percent. Christianity is practiced by 5.6 percent of the people, Islam by 3.8 percent, Hinduism by .5 percent and Animism by .2 percent.
The Rev. James M. Thoburn (1836-1922) came to India and heard about evangelistic opportunities in Yangon (Rangoon), Penang and Singapore from the sailors. He frequently received letters for help from the Indian Methodists who had settled in Yangon, which he shared with William Taylor in America. Taylor could not come immediately so sent Robert E. Carter of Ohio to Yangon to begin the mission. Thoburn immediately went to Yangon to work with Carter and the Methodists there. On Sunday, June 22, 1870, they organized an English-speaking church with 29 members. Ms. E. H. Warner was sent by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society in 1881, Miss Mary McKesson in 1882, and a girl’s school was established and opened the same year.
In 1884 the Myanmar Methodist Church became a district of the South India Conference. In 1885 Singapore was added. In 1892 the Myanmar district became the Bengal-Burma Conference and on February 2, 1902 it became the Myanmar Mission Conference under Bishop F. W. Warne.
In 1950 the Myanmar Annual Conference was included within the newly created Southeastern Asia Central Conference, comprised of the Malaya, the Malaysia Chinese, the Sarawak, the Sumatra, and the Myanmar Annual Conference, up to 1964. Raymond L. Archer served as Bishop from 1950 to 1956, and Hobart B. Amstutz from 1956 to 1964. On May 8, 1964 the General Conference approved the Methodist Church of the Union of Myanmar to be autonomous. The Sixty-Second Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Lower Myanmar was held on October 5-19, 1964 and the Rev. Lim Si Sin was elected to be the first national bishop in 1965. Second bishop was Rev. U Hla Sein, elected in 1969; Rev. C. F. Chu was elected in 1980 as third bishop, and Rev. U Pan Doke was elected in 1984 as the fourth bishop. The Methodist Theological Institute was founded in July 1987.
Rev. U Mya Thaung was elected in 1989 as the fifth bishop. In February 1994 the Annual Conference was split into two groups, each headed by their respective bishops, Rev. U Mya Thaung and Rev. U Maung Than. After six years of splitting and bitter division, in the year 2000 the conference was reunited and the Reunited Special Conference was convened on July 5, 2000. Rev. Zothan Mawia was elected bishop and Rev. U Saw Shaw was elected General Secretary of the Methodist Church of the Union of Lower Myanmar Annual Conference. There are 25 local churches, six gospel centres, 6 districts, 31 full-time preachers including 21 ordained ministers, 2,102 members and 3,270 community.
The Methodist Church has experienced great distress during the past years, but God never forsakes his people, the church and his ministers. He guided and empowered by His Holy Spirit. The storm of hardship is over and all the districts are trying to do their best in order to grow year-by-year. The number of ministers and pastors are inadequate in all districts, so the administration including the work of societies and ministering communion were unable to serve regularly in some churches. More workers are needed.
The capital and centre district Mandalay has a home mission field at Yinmabin, Tamabingwa Villages. The people are Burmese and belong to Buddhism, which is a part of their culture. One of the strongest districts is Tahan. The Rev. Haokhojam and Rev. Lalmuana have opened the seventh district at Mindat.
Evangelists are working in Homalin District, the furthest and very undeveloped area, with bad communications and transportation. The church was founded in1937. Evangelists have tried their best to spread the Gospel, and have never given up. They need funds, supplies, clothing and literature for distribution.
Sami area, located in Southern Chin States, is a concern of the Conference Mission and Evangelism Committee. The Conference supports the workers allowances and other expenses.