Sesquicentennial of Methodism in Chinahighlights need for more clergy
A photograph is available.
by United Methodist News ServiceThe Christian church in China is growing so rapidly that more clergy is needed to meet the increased demand for leadership, said a United Methodist bishop who recently led a U.S. delegation there.
"There are not enough trained pastors to meet the need for establishing new congregations," said United Methodist Bishop Robert C. Morgan, leader of the Louisville (Ky.) Area.
The number of church members is 12 times greater today than it was in 1981, when the churches were opened after China's cultural revolution, he said.
Morgan's delegation joined Methodists from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia recently to celebrate the beginnings of Methodism in China 150 years ago.
The visitors joined hundreds of worshippers participating in a commemoration service at Ward Memorial Methodist Church in Hong Kong Sunday evening Dec. 15.
They then traveled to Fuzhou in the Fujian Province where the first Methodist missionaries -- the Rev. and Mrs. Moses C. White and the Rev. Judson D. Collins -- arrived from Boston Sept. 7, 1847. The Whites and Collins were commissioned and sent by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Rev. Charles Taylor and the Rev. B. Jenkins were commissioned and sent by the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1848.
Methodism grew slowly in the early years, but today 10 to 15 percent of the 60 million people who live in the province are members of a Christian church.
The delegation visited several of the churches that had Methodist beginnings. All are growing dramatically, Morgan said.
"They speak of their Methodist heritage with gratitude and appreciation," he said.
Methodist leadership has spread through Southeast Asia today from Fuzhou. Bishops Philip Tseng of Taiwan, Fong Mow-hee of Malaysia, Wong Kiam-thau of Singapore and President Li Ping-Kwong of Hong Kong are all natives of the Fujian Province and products of the early Methodist movement there.
The Rev. Tracey Jones, former staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was among the visiting delegates. He was born 80 years ago in the Fujian Province of Methodist missionary parents and served as a missionary in China himself until 1946, when the Communist revolution forced him to leave.
"Dr. Jones' history and knowledge of China proved to be an inestimable resource to us," Morgan said. The Kentucky bishop described the Chinese Christians as a "praying people."
"Without reservation, they shared their gratitude for Methodists around the world who have kept them in their prayers," he said. "God has heard these prayers."
Morgan quoted one Chinese Christian leader who said: "Your prayers have upheld us, almost like a swimmer cannot drown in a salt sea. Those prayers have been transformed into material strength. I hope you will continue to pray for us as we will for you."
In addition to Morgan, the U.S. delegation included Dr. and Mrs. Tracey Jones of Sarasota, Fla.; Board of Global Ministries governing members Christine Keels of the church's Baltimore-Washington Conference; Susan Smalley of the Alaska Missionary Conference; David Wu of the Board of Global Ministries staff; Gail Coulson, a missionary in Hong Kong; James Law of the New York Conference; and Benjamin Fong of the California Pacific Conference.
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