christianity in malaysia a denominational history

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West Malaysia & East MalaysiaA multi-racial / multi-cultural / multi-religion countrySize: 329,750 sq. km (approx. US State of New Mexico)

Peninsular Malaysia (11 States in West Malaysia) & Sabah / Sarawak (2 States in East Malaysia)POLITICS / RELIGIONIndependence from British rule (1957). Sabah & Sarawak joined to form Malaysia (1963) & withdrawal of Singapore. Politically powerful rulers & Malays (Bumiputeras) influence in education, economic, religious life. Sunni Islam official religion in (WM) but Islam a minority in EM. Majority Muslim population: 58% (Christians 9.1%). Others: Buddhism (22%), Hinduism (5%), other Traditional ethnic religion (6%).Overall, Malaysia is a peaceful nation. Government constitutional provision of religious freedom. Not legal to proselytize Muslims. Islamic resurgence: major efforts (govt. benefits/privileges) given to new Muslim converts from ethnic groups & Chinese. Persecution index: 47th in the world.

COSMOPOLITANIndigenous people: Bumiputeras (58%), Chinese (26%), Indian (7.2%), Others (6.5%) - expats & 1.7 million migrants (mostly illegal).

ECONOMY: A nation blessed with abundance of natural resources. Vigorous growth since Independence from colonial powers (1957). The 1990s saw large scale industralization (oil, mining, agriculture, logging & technology) & multi-national corps. / foreign investments (esp. Japanese) transformed country.Prosperity of nation attracted increasing flow of immigrant neighbors (Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India) makeup 10% workforce.

CHRISTIANITY IN MALAYSIA A Brief Overview (2000 census) MISSION VISION: The Missions vision of the Churches in Malaysia has continually increase. Over 800 serve with 26 agencies in countries around the world.Malaysian Christians: 9.1% of total population (28 million) of country. Majority of Christians live in East Malaysia. Major Christian denominations: Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterian, Brethrens, Pentecostals / Charismatics, Assembly of God, non-denominational churches, & independent charismatic churches. Well established under able & dynamic church leadership in both West & East Malaysia.Bible colleges/seminaries/ Apostolic centres located in both WM & EM.

A Brief Overview (cont.)After Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511, it became the centre for evangelization. Used as major base by Francis Xavier. Dutch conquest (1641) displaced Catholic influence until 1700s. Catholic missionary / priests from Siam (Thailand) set up a regional major seminary in Penang Island (1810). 19th century: Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Brethren churches - ministry to overseas Chinese & Indian migrants.Catholic & Anglican missionaries under Rajah James Brooke in Sarawak (East Malaysia).Methodist influence (1885) English education/strong ties built with Foochow settlements in Sitiawan (Perak state) & Sibu (Sarawak state).In 1928, Australian Borneo Evangelical Mission work in EM resulted in the birth of Borneo Evangelical Mission / Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) it became the largest indigenous church in Malaysia today.By 1970s Christianity, denominationally & ethnically diverse and church leadership firmly national. By 2000, Christians comprised approx. 9% population of both WM and EM.

Ministry of St Francis Xavier in Malacca (one of the 7 original founder members with Ignatius Loyola)

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) first Jesuit missionary to Malacca. He establish it as the major centre and important evangelical base. Extend ministry to Christian Portuguese.Churches and schools (primary & secondary) in both WM & EM named after him. Regarded as one of the greatest missionaries of Christian history in Malaysia.

STANDING BEAUTIES OF TODAY Malaysias oldest historic church in Malacca founded by St. Francis Xavier.

Catholic priests from Siam (Thailand) set up a regional major Seminary in Penang Island (1810).

An Outline History of Christianity in MalaysiaEarly Christian presence (7th century) traced back to Nestorians (Persian & Nestorian traders) in Malacca prior to Portuguese conquest in 1511.British acquire Penang Island (1786) & Malacca (1795) from the Dutch (1641). Catholic leadership remained, but divided between Portuguese and French.Open Brethren ministry dates from 1860 and Methodist from 1885.Presbyterianism grew through Chinese churches in Johore and expatriate congregations in Penang, Ipoh, and Kuala Lumpur.North American & Ceylonese Pentecostal missionaries had been active since 1935. Experience of Pentecostalism (larger influence) through the Charismatic Movement esp. in 1970s. Migration, an important factor in church growth. Many were Christians. Tamil migrants to Malaysia include Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists. Mar Thomas & Syrian Orthodox churches were established in 1930s following increased migration from Kerala Coast of India. In Sabah, the Basel Mission (1882) outreach to migrant Hakka Chinese. Sitiawan and Sibu many strong Chinese Methodist Centres established.

THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORECore Belief of LCMS Lutheran missionary work among Chinese (1950s). Establish strong relationships with all Lutheran Councils/Churches worldwideToday, 27 Lutheran congregations in Malaysia and 8 in Singapore.

Origins / HistoryCommunist takeover in China (1949). Many Chinese / Chinese missionaries/mission agencies forced to leave China. During the Malayan Emergency, British government actively encouraged churches & missionary societies to send them to Malaysia. Mission to Urban & Rural Chinese (1958): Missionaries came from America, Germany & Hong Kong. From (1954 1974) period of local leadership training / development of church, medical, educational training (Bible Institute / English) provided in New Villages & cities.A Joint Committee for Lutheran Union formed in 1963.Presently, LCMS has come to the era of second-generation Lutheran Christians. Emphasis change: from villages to city work. LCMS provides facilities for lay training, seminary theological training. Close relationship and Affiliation with renowned Trinity College & Singapore Bible College.

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHOldest denomination having arrived with Portuguese conquest of Malacca (1511). Late 18th century, French priests/sisters made a significant contribution, esp. training local priests.From 1970s, RCC in Malaysia came entirely under local priests / leadership.After Vatican II - in the 1960s, great changes / influence increased in the Malaysian RCC.Today, it is the largest denom. in Malaysia comprising over half the Christian population.

BRIEF HISTORY: Portuguese Church in Malacca (1511-1795). Led by Alfonso de Albuquerque, Portuguese motivation: political, military & economic considerations (LUCRATIVE SPICE TRADE) besides religion. Malacca (the Straits of Malacca, a very important strategic trade route) raised by Pope Paul IV in Rome, to a suffragan see (deputy diocese) under Goa (1558). Arrivals of new missionary orders: Blackfriars (1554), Greyfriars (1582), Augustinians (1587).From 1590, Dutch and English arrived. Suppression under Dutch rule (1641-1703). Dutch Presbyterianism prevailed but Catholicism remained strong. By 1712 many Protestants adopted Dutch names. Then, Dutch interests (economic / religious) turned to Java, Batavia.Arrival of Francis Light in Penang (signing of Treaty of Pangkor) marked British presence & Christianity in the Straits Settlements (1786-1874). Catholic services/parishes flourished in Penang. The British government encouraged China missionaries of all denominations (esp. Catholics) to evangelize the thousands of Chinese immigrants. Two European powers (Portuguese & French) led Catholic missions to reach Chinese, Indians, Eurasians & local tribes. French Catholic missionaries came from Thailand founded a large Catholic community in Kuala Kedah state (with the support of its Sultan ruler) in WM. Roman Catholicism spread to Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johore - major states in WM. Establishment of Catholic schools & Catholic Action (Lay Apostolate) Organisations (eg; Society of St Vincent de Paul/ The Legion of Mary/Cathedral of the Assumption in Penang).

1945-1970: TOWARD A MALAYSIAN ANGLICAN CHURCH After the Japanese Occupation & return of British: Proven Asian priests were strong pastors / leaders. In the Diocese: mutual suffering, crisis, experiences brought a true multi-racial spirit / services in all Anglican churches.


A fresh reflection for Asian clergy role and training; Initiated moves for new inter-racial church committees / inter-racial worship services. Abolished Chaplaincy system to Parishes (Parochial Church Council setup) in 1947 with 3 major racial Rep. Groups (European, Indians & Chinese). By 1953: dramatic increase in Missionary expansion; many new churches & Chinese churches established (indigenous & self-supporting); Medical clinics, home visits, grants for medical / educational work in the New Villages; renewed relationship of Anglican churches & colonial state. Unity of Diocese: an important witness in the face of political / racial differences when Malaysia and Singapore split (1965).Pioneered Seminaries in major States; development of missionary districts & parishes (focus on worship / Diocesan events).Special outreach efforts: Missions strategy & ushering a new era in indigenisation of Anglicanism as a Church for Malaysians.