What Can We Learn from British Methodists Revising Mission?



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Worldwide Nature of the Church

I applaud Mother Methodism, The Methodist Church in Britain, for its understanding of the mission of the Church. I happen to be born in Malaysia which was a British colony but my Methodist roots stem from the United States which was once a British colony too. The Methodist movement from America which sets itself free from Britain did not do the same with the Methodist churches which they helped to establish in Asia, Africa and South America. It fostered the colonial empire mentality in setting up Central Conferences. British Methodism sets its goal to provide the autonomous national churches with national leadership and maintain a fraternal relationship with the British Conference. On the other hand, United Methodist embraced the colonial image and surfaced it again under the rubric of The Global Nature of United Methodist Church.

In the period after World War Two the colonial empires were disintegrating with the emergence of national independence. Methodist Churches of the British connection had already in place the independence of national Methodist Churches. But this was not the case of Methodist churches connected with the Board of Mission then of the present United Methodist Church.

Methodist Churches in Asia with the lonely exception of the Philippines (once an American colony) was on the move towards autonomy and freeing themselves from the global structure of the United Methodist Church. It was in 1968 that I was elected as the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore without any political pressure from their governments. Other Asian and Latin American churches followed this direction in the following decades until recent years. We have not turned back to the past. I predict that financial considerations of supporting a global structure will force the return to this path towards autonomy of Methodist churches especially in Africa and Europe which are still in connection as Central Conferences.

YAP Kim Hao more than 8 years ago