South East Asia

In 1957 British Methodism, in co-operation with the work of the American Methodist Board of Missions in Southeast Asia, launched a new initiative to serve the Chinese dispersion. The plan was to supply and support British Missionary personnel to serve the Chinese under American direction and the authority of the local church. The Asia Secretary of the MMS, Donald B. Childe, hoped that this would help train a new generation of China missionaries in case the door into China, which had closed in 1951, should reopen. The initiative started with the appointment of a former China missionary, J.N. Foster, and three probationer ministers, John L. Hodgkinson, David H. MacDonald and Geoffrey R. Senior, to the Church in Sarawak. They were later joined by other missionaries, both ministerial and lay. The British team served in pastoral work, in the Chinese faculty of the Theological School in Sibu, and in the Methodist Middle School. Team members were also involved in initiating training courses for lay workers. Earlier, in 1954, a former China missionary, Charles H. Smith, had been appointed to the Chinese faculty of Trinity Theological College, Singapore, and served for a time as pastor of the Singapore English-speaking Wesley Church.

In 1958 a retired former China missionary, Cyril G. Baker, was appointed Principal of the Methodist Bible School in Medan, North Sumatra, where the Rev. J.D. Buxton also served as a teacher. On Mr. Baker's second retirement the Rev.G.R. Senior took over as Principal from November 1963. Difficulties arose for the British contribution from Indonesia's undeclared 'Confrontation' war with the newly-formed Federation of Malaysia, regarded as as a British imperialist plot by the Indonesian authorities. Following the evacuation of British business people, in October 1964, on the advice of the British Consul, the dependants of MMS missionaries in Medan were evacuated to Singapore. Senior and Buxton stayed on until, urged by the MMS headquarters in London, they too went to Singapore in January 1965.

For the next three years there was no British presence in the Indonesian Methodist Church (which had become autonomous from the American Church in 1964) and the evacuated personnel served in Singapore and Malaysia. With the encouragement of the MMS, which wished to keep the door open for a British contribution, Senior returned to Indonesia in 1965 on a fact-finding visit to Medan and Djakarta, in order to assess the situation and seek a renewal of his Indonesian visa. It was decided, in view of the uncertainties arising from the Indonesian Communist abortive coup of 30 September 1965, that his family should return to Britain. The MMS contribution to the Church in Indonesia was resumed in February 1966, when he returned to his duties at the Medan Bible School.

  • Geoffrey R. Senior, For Love of the Chinese (Plymouth, 1989)

Entry written by: GRS
Category: Place
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