The Methodist Church was birthed out of the Wesleyan Revival during the period of the Great Evangelical Awakening in the 18th Century.
The Rev John Wesley, the Father of Methodism, was born on the 17th of June 1703. He was the 15thchild and the second son of Rev Samuel Wesley, an Anglican Pastor, and his wife Susanna. His brother Charles was born in 1707. In a family of 19 children, John and Charles received a strict religious upbringing. His early education was at Charterhouse, where he spent 6 years before going to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1720. It is said that “Wesley entered Charterhouse a saint, and left it a sinner.”
His spiritual life underwent a serious turn in 1725 just before his ordination as a deacon in the Anglican Church. In 1729 he returned to Oxford University as a lecturer and became the leader of a serious-minded group of students at Oxford called the “Holy Club.” Their concern was for spiritual and physical discipline, and for the poor and prisoners. They were given the nickname “Methodists” because of their methodical and disciplined habits.
Influenced by the Moravians, a German Pietist religious group, and Peter Bohler, John Wesley’s diary showed a gradual growth in his faith from the time he set his foot on America, as a missionary-pastor, after sailing from England. Shortly after returning from America, John attended a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London on 24th May, 1738. When Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans was being read, John had a heart-warming experience which he described as follows in his diary:
“About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
That experience turned John Wesley’s life and ministry around. Restricted by the Anglican churches, John had to turn to preach in the open field. The people thronged to hear him preach. A revival broke-out.
John Wesley died in 1791. His brother Charles died earlier in 1788. John was active in ministry till almost the day of his death. In his lifetime, he travelled around 250,000 miles usually on horseback, preached more than 40,000 times and wrote some 200 books. He left behind a movement of some 130,000 Methodists in England and America.
The impact of the Revival in Britain was immeasurable. Through the changed lives of the thousands of common working-class families, society was slowly transformed. From England the Revival spread to Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and later to the United States and West Indies. Wesley trained and sent out men to these new areas. Long after Wesley had died, the Revival continued and the gospel was taken into many other parts of the world. Eventually through the Methodist Episcopal Church in US, the Methodist Church in Malaysia was established.
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, said the Lord” (Zech. 4:6), was the text of the first Methodist sermon in Singapore preached by Rev. Dr. James M. Thoburn. Fifty years later, when visiting Penang and Singapore, Rev. William F. Oldham exclaimed, and indeed we all may say, “See what God has done!”
In 1879 when Thoburn was the Presiding Elder of the Calcutta District, of India, Thoburn began to receive repeated invitations from a certain Mr Charles Phillips, to preach in Singapore. Phillips though an Anglican, had come under the influence of Wesleyan teachings that stirred up his evangelistic zeal. He was sent to Singapore in 1864 by the English army.
When the South India Conference met for its annual session, Rev.William F. Oldham was appointed on 25th November 1884 as missionary to Singapore. Rev. Dr. James M. Thoburn (Missionary Bishop), Mrs Anna Thoburn, together with Rev William F. Oldham and Mrs Marie Oldham arrived in Singapore on 7th February 1885 after conducting a mission in Rangoon and raising funds for the Singapore mission. The next day, on the 8th of February 1885, in the Town Hall, the first Methodist English evangelistic meeting was conducted with Thoburn preaching the first sermon. By 22nd February 1885, a Methodist church had been established in Singapore, with Oldham appointed as Pastor.
“In 1886 and 1887 there was a Burmah District. Its appointments included Penang (to be supplied), Rangoon, Singapore and Toungoo. The Presiding Elder was Rev. J. E. Robinson of Rangoon. W. F. Oldham was the young appointee at Singapore. J. M. Thoburn at Calcutta had inaugurated by evangelistic meetings the work in Rangoon and Singapore. In those days F. W. Warne and his little family came on board to relieve Thoburn at Calcutta, and the General Conference of 1888 elected Thoburn as Missionary Bishop for the whole region, stretching from Karachi to Singapore.”
In 1888, the Methodist work in “the Peninsula of Malacca, with the adjacent territory and islands in which the Malay language is spoken, became a Mission under the administration of the Missionary Society” and separated from the South India Conference.
The work of the Methodist Mission grew in several directions, linguistically in English, Tamil, Chinese and Malay, and geographically up the Peninsular.
The Tamil work started with the coming of a Ceylon Tamil, Mr Underwood. In 1894 the Tamil work was started in Penang by the Pyketts, and in Kuala Lumpur by the Kensetts and was continued by Rev. S. Abraham from Ceylon in 1899.
In 1899, work was begun in the Philippines where in 1904 the Philippines Mission Conference was formed. It was later associated with the work in Malaya when Bishop Edwin F. Lee was Presiding Bishop of the Singapore-Manila area from 1928-I942.
Methodism came to Sarawak in the year 1901 with the arrival of Methodists from Fujian province in mainland China under the leadership of Methodist lay preacher Mr Wong Nai Siong. Missionaries came in 1903 in the persons of Rev. Dr. J.M Hoover and G.V Summers. All this work developed into the Sarawak Mission in 1947, the Sarawak Provisional Annual Conference in 1952 and the Sarawak Annual Conference in 1960.
In 1905, work was begun in Java and Sumatra. The former was given up but the latter grew into the Sumatra Mission in 1922 which became an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in 1964.
The ministry amongst the indigenous Sengoi community was started in 1931 with the help of missionaries from Sumatra, Indonesia. Rev Paul Means and Mrs Natalie Means made the early contacts. Bishop Dr. Edwin Ferdinand Lee and Paul Means met with the British Resident of Perak at Ipoh in early 1931. At the meeting it was decided that the Methodists should initiate a program to meet the needs of the Orang Asli. “We proposed that our gurus would live in the jungle with the Orang Asli to teach and preach and live the Gospel as the Word of Life and be a witness to their own faith, but conversion to Christianity and baptism would be delayed for the initial (ten) years” in order to give priority to “education, health and agricultural assistance.” This decision was arrived at as they ascertained that the outreach was going to be “delicate and controversial.”
Ministry amongst the indigenous Ibans in Sarawak began in 1937 with pioneers like Lucius D. Mamora, a Batak missionary from Indonesia, and the American Rev. Paul H. Schmucker who took the Gospel to the longhouses. The Sarawak Iban Provisional Annual Conference was organised in 1962. At the end of 1968, the Sarawak Iban Annual Conference was formed.
In 1936, the Malaysia Chinese Annual Conference consisting of the Chinese-speaking members of the Malaya Annual Conference was formed. But the actual foundation of the Chinese Conference as it is today was laid by men like Rev. Ling Ching Mi who came to Malaya in 1897, having already been ordained in China. In 1964 the Conference adopted Mandarin as its official language.
The Malaya Annual Conference, the Malaysia Chinese Annual Conference, the Sarawak Annual Conference, the Sumatra Annual Conference and the Burma Annual Conference, by common consent, became the South-eastern Asia Central Conference from 1950 to I964 and elected Rev Raymond L. Archer as Bishop for 1950-1956, and Hobart B. Amstutz as Bishop for 1956-1964.
Development from a mission station to a system in which considerable self-government could be practised led to the formation of the Central Conference during those years. Political circumstances in Sumatra and Burma made it necessary for them to become an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Sumatra in 1964, and an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Burma in 1965.
In 1964, the Malaysia Central Conference (formerly South-eastern Asia Central Conference) of The Methodist Church was convened in Kuala Lumpur. Bishop H.B. Amstutz presided. Bishop Roy H. Short and Bishop Shot K. Mondol, official representatives of the Council of Bishops, were present. The constituent Annual Conferences of the Malaysia Central Conference were the Malaya Annual Conference (ministry in English, Tamil and Malay languages), the Malaysia Chinese Annual Conference (ministry in Chinese and English), the Sarawak Annual Conference (ministry in Chinese) and the Sarawak Iban Provisional Annual Conference (ministry in Iban language). Rev. Robert F. Lundy was elected Bishop for a term of four years. With Singapore becoming an independent Republic in 1965, the name The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore came into common use.
At the 1964 Central Conference, it was decided that if each of the constituent Annual Conferences so decided, application would be made for an Enabling Act to form the affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore. In 1966, all the constituent Annual Conferences not only voted in favour of autonomy but also appointed committees to work together in 1967 to formulate a constitution and discipline for the consideration of the Annual Conferences before the General Conference of 1968. To that end, separate and joint committee meetings were held in Singapore and Malaysia.
In I968, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church meeting at Dallas, Texas, United States of America, granted an Enabling Act for the Annual Conferences to constitute the affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore which would maintain its historic bonds with The United Methodist Church in the United States.
The Malaysia Central Conference of the United Methodist Church was dissolved and the Constituting Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore was organised on 8th August, 1968. The Constituting Conference accepted the Constitution and Discipline of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore on 15th August, 1968, and on that date it was dissolved.
The First General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore was organised by Bishop Robert F. Lundy assisted by Bishops Prince A. Taylor and Mangal Singh on 15th August, 1968 and officially constituted on August 18th, I968.
Bishop Yap Kim Hao was elected and consecrated at Wesley Methodist Church, Singapore on I8th August, 1968, as the first Bishop of the affiliated autonomous Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore.
In all this, there is the consciousness that the Church should determine its own life and participate in the ecumenical movement. There was the deep awareness that the people called Methodists in Malaysia and Singapore were summoned to the Mission of Christ and His Church. It was the prayer of every Methodist that what we were led into was not by might nor by power but by the Spirit of the Lord.
On December 11, 1968, the Tamil Provisional Annual Conference consisting of the Tamil-speaking members of the Malaya Annual Conference was formed. Rev T. R. Doraisamy was elected President.
Bishop Yap Kim Hao was re-elected as Bishop for a second quadrennium on November 16, 1972, and was installed to the office at Wesley Methodist Church, Singapore on November 19th, 1972 by Bishop D. Frederick Wertz during the Second Session of the General Conference which was held in Singapore from November 13 to 19, 1972.
In 1973, Bishop Yap Kim Hao accepted the elected position as General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia. Consequently the Executive Council of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore called a special session of the General Conference to elect a new bishop for the rest of the quadrennium. The special session of the General Conference met on December 14-16, 1973 at Trinity College, Singapore. The Rev. Theodore R. Doraisamy was elected Bishop and was consecrated by Bishop Yap Kim Hao on December 16th, 1973 at Wesley Methodist Church, Singapore.
Since the 1972 General Conference, a Committee on Restructure was appointed to study and to present the appropriate restructure and legislation on the establishment of two national churches. In 1974 and the following year under the leadership of Bishop Doraisamy, the Re-structure Committee sought the guidance of the Annual Conferences for a consensus.
In 1976, the General Conference met in Kuala Lumpur and granted an Enabling Act for the component Annual Conferences to constitute The Methodist Church in Malaysia and The Methodist Church in Singapore. By due process, The Methodist Church in Malaysia was constituted on December 4, 1976 in Kuala Lumpur and similarly, The Methodist Church in Singapore was constituted on December 8th, 1976 in Singapore.
The Rev. Fang Chung Nan was elected the first Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and was consecrated by Bishops T. R. Doraisamy and D. Frederick Wertz. Other officials elected were Mr. Tan Chi Kiong as Treasurer and Mr. D. R. Daniel as Secretary. The Rev. Kao Jih Chung was elected the first Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore and was consecrated by Bishops T. R. Doraisamy and D. Frederick Wertz.
The Methodist Church in Malaysia comprised the component Annual Conferences, namely Chinese Annual Conference (President: Rev Fang Chung Nan), Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference President: Rev Eugene Teng Yu Chi), Sarawak Iban Annual Conference (President: Rev Joshua Bunsu Numan), Tamil Annual Conference (President: Rev V. John Kovilpillai) and Trinity Annual Conference (Rev Denis Chandraraj Dutton).
The Second Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1980. Also attending were Bishop H.E. Finger, Jr. (Council of Bishops United Methodist Church), Bishop H. Sitorus (Methodist Church in Indonesia), Bishop Kao Jin Chung (Methodist Church in Singapore), and Rev. Gordon Shaw (British Methodist Church). Bishop C.N. Fang was re-elected Bishop. Mr. Tan Chi Kiong and Mr. D.R. Daniel were re-elected Treasurer and Secretary respectively.
Although a good number of Methodist people from Sarawak had moved to Sabah to work in the 1970s, it was not until 1983 that the idea of starting a preaching point was mooted. With the support and encouragement of the Anglican Bishop of Sabah, Bishop Chhoa, the Methodist minister from SCAC, Rev Siew Chiu Huo, and fellow Methodists residing in Kota Kinabalu commenced the first Methodist worship service on the 4th of April, 1983 using the chapel of the Anglican All Saints School. By April 24th, the President of SCAC Rev Ling Tung Hui formally announced the establishment of a preaching point in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. With the establishment of a few more preaching points in Sabah, Rev Siew Chiu Huo was made the first District Superintendent, and SCAC announced Sabah as a District under SCAC. On 24th September 1990, the General Conference approved the establishment of Sabah Mission Conference.
In September 2004 the General Conference, on petition by the sponsor, Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, granted an enabling Act for the Sabah Missions Conference to be constituted as the Sabah Provisional Annual Conference, which led to the election of Rev Ling Heu Uh as the first President. Subsequently, at the Eleventh Session in the year 2016, approval was given to SPAC to become Sabah Annual Conference which was realized on the 9th of November, 2018 under the leadership of President Rev Dr Hii Kong Hock.
The Third Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in 1984 at Kuala Lumpur. The General Conference Session was also the celebration of the first Centenary of The Methodist Church in Malaysia. Attending the General Conference were Bishop William R. Cannon (United Methodist Church), Bishop T.R. Doraisamy (former Bishop of Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore), Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn (Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church), Bishop Emerita P. Nacpil (Council of Bishops), Bishop H. Sitorus (Methodist Church in Indonesia), and Rev Dr. Robert F. Lundy (former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore).
Bishop C.N. Fang was re-elected Bishop for a third term. At that session, Enabling Acts were given for the formation of the Sengoi Methodist Missions Conference and the Sabah Methodist Mission Conference. Mr. Tan Chi Kiong and Mr. D.R. Daniel were re-elected Treasurer and Secretary respectively.
The Fourth Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in 1988 in Kuala Lumpur. Rev. Dr. Denis C. Dutton was elected Bishop and was consecrated by Bishops C.N. Fang, Ernest T. Dixon Jr., H. Panggabean, Enoch Kuey, Ho Chee Sin and Rev. Li Ping Kwong.
Dr. Ng Wee Lam was elected the Treasurer of the General Conference and Mr. D.R. Daniel was re-elected the Secretary.
In 1992 the Fifth Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in Kuala Lumpur. Bishop Dutton was re-elected Bishop. Also present were Bishop Woodrow Hearn (United Methodist Church) and Bishop Ho Chee Sin (Methodist Church in Singapore). Mr. Tung Kam Seng was elected the General Conference Secretary, and Dr. Ng Wee Lam was re-elected the Treasurer.
In 1996 the Sixth Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in Kuala Lumpur. Rev. Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching, Elder of Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, was elected Bishop. He was consecrated by Bishop Datuk Dr Denis C. Dutton, Bishop Ho Chee Sin (The Methodist Church in Singapore), Bishop Dr Daniel Arichea, Jr (Philippines Central Conference) and Mr Roger Walton (British Methodist Church). Mr Tung Kam Seng was re-elected the Secretary, and Dr Ng Wee Lam was re-elected the Treasurer of the General Conference.
The Seventh Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in the year 2000 in Kuching, Sarawak. Bishop Datuk Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching was re-elected Bishop for a second term. Attending the General Conference were Bishop Emeritus Datuk Dr Denis C. Dutton, Bishop William Morris (Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church), Bishop Dr. H. Dolosaribu (Methodist Church in Indonesia), Bishop Philip Tseng (Methodist Church of the Republic of China), Bishop Wong Kiam Thau (The Methodist Church in Singapore) and Rev. Dr Yap Kim Hao (former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore). Mr Tung Kam Seng was re-elected the Secretary and Mr John Ling Tung Chuang was elected the Treasurer of the General Conference.
The Eighth Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur. Rev. Dr Hwa Yung, Elder of Trinity Annual Conference, was elected Bishop and was consecrated by Bishop Datuk Dr. Peter Chio Sing Ching and Bishop Dr Robert Solomon (The Methodist Church in Singapore). Also attending the General Conference were Bishop Dr Leo A. Soriano (Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church and Philippines Central Conference) and Rev. Jim W. Jones (British Methodist Church). Mr Tung Kam Seng was re-elected the Secretary and Mr John Ting Sik Kang was elected the Treasurer of the General Conference.
The Ninth Session of the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in 2008 at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Bishop Dr Hwa Yung was re-elected Bishop for a second term. Bishop Dr Robert Solomon (The Methodist Church in Singapore), Bishop Amat Tumino (The Methodist Church in Indonesia), Bishop Albert Chiew (The Chinese Methodist Church in Australia Annual Conference) and Bishop Roy I. Sano (United Methodist Church, USA) attended the General Conference. Dr William J. Abraham, Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies and University Distinguished Professor at Southern Methodist University, Texas was the Conference speaker. Mr Anthony Row was elected the Conference Secretary and Mr John Ting Sik Kang was re-elected the Treasurer of the Conference.
Delegates from the Sabah Provisional Annual Conference which was constituted on October 22nd, 2004 attended the 9th Session of the General Conference for the first time. The General Conference revised the Social Principles. Workshops were held on the following topics: Evangelism and Church Planting, Discipleship, Church and Society, and Missions.
A Special Session of the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in 2011 at a hotel in Port Dickson. At that Session, amendments to certain sections of The Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church as proposed by the Discipline Review Council were presented for discussion and adoption.
The Tenth Session of the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in September 2012 in Kuala Lumpur. It was attended by Bishop Emeritus Datuk Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching, Bishop Amat Tumino (The Methodist Church in Indonesia), Rev. Susan Keegan Von Allman (British Methodist Church), Bishop Dr. James Kwang (The Chinese Methodist Church in Australia), President Rev. Dr W.Jebanesan (The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka), Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso Juan (United Methodist Church, USA), Bishop Dr Robert Solomon (The Methodist Church in Singapore). Rev. Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Director of the Barnabas Fund, U.K., was the Conference speaker. At that session, all the revised amendments from the Special Session of the General Conference were presented for discussion and adoption. Mr. Anthony Row was re-elected the Conference Secretary and Mr. Tan Swee Ann was elected the Treasurer of the General Conference.
As there was no successful conclusion to the episcopal election, the General Conference continued its Tenth Session in October in Kuala Lumpur. Rev. Dr Ong Hwai Teik, President of Trinity Annual Conference, was then elected Bishop and was consecrated by Bishop Dr Hwa Yung and Bishop Dr Robert Solomon (The Methodist Church in Singapore).
The Eleventh Session of the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia was held in September 2016 at Kingwood Hotel, Sibu, Sarawak. Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik was re-elected Bishop for a second term. The General Conference was attended by Bishop Dr. and Mrs. Wee Boon Hup (The Methodist Church in Singapore), Bishop Dr. and Mrs D. James Kwang (The Chinese Methodist Church in Australia), Bishop and Mrs. Sudarshana Devadhar (United Methodist Church, USA) and Bishop Emeritus Dr. Hwa Yung. All the visiting Bishops participated in the re-dedication service of Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik. Rev Duleep Fernando (former President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka) was the Conference Speaker. Mr. Anthony Row and Mr Tan Swee Ann were re-elected as the General Conference Secretary and the General Conference Treasurer respectively.
The 12th Session of the General Conference took place during the pandemic year. As the world fought the Covid-19 virus, the 12th Session of the Methodist Church in Malaysia was held online for the very first time, in eight different hubs on 8th September, 2020. Rev. Dr. T. Jeyakumar, the President of the Trinity Annual Conference was elected Bishop. At that one-day Conference Session, Mr Anthony Row (TAC) was re-elected General Conference Secretary, while Mr Ronnie Hii Ru Wei (SCAC) was elected General Conference Treasurer. That Session also approved the petition to change the nomenclature from ‘President of Annual Conference’ to ‘Bishop of Annual Conference.’ With subsequent approval from the Annual Conference Sessions, the decision was carried with more than two-thirds majority votes. The 12th Session decided to hold a Special Session in the early part of the next quadrennium.
Rev. Dr. T. Jeyakumar was consecrated Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia at the Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya on the 4th of October, 2020. The Episcopal Consecration Service was attended by Archbishop Julian Leow (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur), Bishop Ng Moon Hing (Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia), Bishop Aaron Yap (Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia), Bishop Steven Lawrence (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia), Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik, Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung, Mr Anthony Row (General Conference Secretary), Mr Jacob Lee (Chairman, Council of Laity), Mrs Grace Jeyakumar, other dignitaries and invited guests. Bishop Dr T. Jeyakumar was the preacher at the Episcopal Consecration Service.