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Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Upper Burma was missioned by British Methodism and Lower Burma by American Methodists. Upper Burma was annexed by the British in 1886 and the following year two MMS missionaries, J. Milton Brown (d.1934; e.m. 1865) and William R. Winston, were sent from India to assess and report on the possibility of a mission. A Methodist army chaplain, J.H. Bateson, was posted away from Mandalay that year, but Winston was joined early in 1888 by Arthur H. Bestall. Progress in the face of the prevailing Buddhism remained slow until 1952, with only 1,063 converts reported in the first half-century; but this accelerated when evangelism was begun among ethnic groups in the Chin Hills and the Kale Valley, who were animists. In 1956 a membership of 3,200 was reported; by 1987 the reported total had risen to 37,928, but this had halved by 1992 and in 2002 was down to 14,610, with a community roll of 26,857.

The Asylum for Lepers, opened in Mandalay as early as 1890, was Methodism's first encounter with leprosy and eventually had beds for 250 patients. It led to similar work in India, China and elsewhere.

Negotiations to bring together the Methodist Churches of Lower and Upper Burma came to nothing. The British Methodist mission in Upper Burma became autonomous in 1965, a year before all expatriate missionaries were expelled, Christian hospitals and schools being taken over by the state.

Sources

  • G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1921-1924), vol. 5 pp.381-91
  • World Methodist Council, Handbook of Information
  • Michael D. Leigh, Conflict, politics and proselytism: Methodist missionaries in colonial and post-colonial Upper Burma 1887-1966 (Manchester, 2011?)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Place

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