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.
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