Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership at Ripon College.
We here at UM & Global would be remiss if we let the month end without mentioning that April marked the 130th anniversary of Methodism in Korea. As you can read about here and here, the first missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) arrived in Korea on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1885. That event was the germ that led to the growth of Methodism in Korea and Korean Methodism in the United States, reshaping the religious landscape of both countries as well as the MEC and its successor body, the UMC. The Korean Methodist Church has become autonomous from American Methodism, but the strength of Korean-American Methodists in the UMC have kept those relationships vital.
This year is also the 130th anniversary of Methodism in Singapore and Malaysia. On February 7, 1885, missionaries from the MEC arrived in Singapore for the first time, leading to the growth of Methodism there, as you can read more about here. Methodism was less successful in Singapore and Malaysia than it was in Korea, though there were for a while connections between Methodism in Malaysia and Methodism in the Philippines, which continues to be an important part of the UMC. In addition, there have been fewer Methodist immigrants from Singapore and Malaysia to the US who have ended up in UMC churches. The Methodist Church in Singapore and the Methodist Church in Malaysia are now both autonomous, and connections with the US have declined.
1885 is also the 130th anniversary of the start of Methodism in Angola. Missionary Bishop William Taylor began his work for the MEC in Luanda, Angola, on March 18, 1885. That work led to the growth of Methodism in Angola, and there are currently two Annual Conferences of The United Methodist Church in Angola, each of which is also an episcopal area. These Angolan conferences are part of the growing African contingent of United Methodists that is reshaping the face of the UMC as a denomination.
When remembering these historical events, it's worth thinking about the different trajectories that Methodism took in each of these three cases: continued affiliation, autonomy with substantial continuing connections, and autonomy with diminished connections. None of these routes is inherently better or worse, but as we think about what it means to be a global denomination, it is important that we remember the range of ways in which our global connections as a denomination have evolved historically.