The first British Methodist missionaries came to Upper Burma in 1887 and the last left in 1966. They were known as 'Wesleyans' before 1932 and afterwards as 'Methodists'. This book is a study of the ambitions, activities and achievements of Methodist missionaries in northern Burma from 1887-1966 and the expulsion of the last missionaries by Ne Win. Henry Venn, the impeccably evangelical Secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), was the most distinguished and inspiring of nineteenth-century mission administrators. Wesleyan missionaries often found property development more congenial than saving souls. In Pakokku in December 1905, a 'weak' American missionary from Myingyan and a couple of Baptist Burman government officials began 'totally immersing' Wesleyans. Proselytism was officially frowned upon in the Indian Empire. The Wesley high schools were extraordinarily successful during the early years of the twentieth century. The Colonial Government was investing heavily in education. A bamboo curtain descended on Upper Burma in May 1942. Wesley Church Mandalay was gutted during the bombing raids of April 1942 and the Japanese requisitioned the Mission House and the Girls High School soon afterwards. General Ne Win was ruthlessly radical in 1962. By April 1964 Bishop was the last 'front-line' Methodist missionary in Upper Burma and the last European of any sort in Monywa. The book pulls together the themes of conflict, politics and proselytisation in to a fascinating study of great breadth.
the Methodists’ unofficial wartime headquarters, just as U Po Tun was their unofficial
WesleyChurchMandalay had been gutted during the bombing raids of April
1942 and the Japanese requisitioned the Mission House and the Girls High School soon
afterwards. The Methodists reopened a small school in Mahazayabon and they held weekly
services in Saya Klaipo’s house. 17
The regular Burmese congregation was augmented from time to time by an eclectic mixture of
Buddhists, ‘Burmese princes’ and
buildings crashing down. 13 On the other hand, WesleyChurchMandalay had been
repaired, work had started on rebuilding the Monywa Mission House, the army had handed back
the Mawlaik Mission House and some redundant village schools had been sold off. 14
Firth and Reed began to bombard the Missionary Society with requests for
grants to repair and rerepair war-damaged buildings. WesleyChurchMandalay was a case in
point. It had been gutted during the war, restored, reopened in April 1949, damaged again
when government forces
’. Willans picked up only garbled snippets of news. He heard that
Methodist ministers had defended church property against insurgents and that dacoits were
‘causing considerable trouble’. There were some hopeful signs in Rangoon by
December 1950. Imported medicines and printing paper began to appear in shops and Christian
Chin soldiers were hailed as heroes. Willans was told that most of the large towns were now
in government hands and that WesleyChurchMandalay had ‘been nobly renovated’. 60
Notwithstanding Willans’s optimism
Ohn and Dr Jamaldin,
for example, are leaders in the Mandalay Church today.
Several church members are employed in the District Office and the
YMCA, and they live on land previously occupied by the Mandalay Girls and Boys Wesley High
U Tin Maung Htwe (1948–2009) is a notable exception. He was one
of the few active politicians in the Church (Interview, 2007). A graduate civil engineer and
treasurer of WesleyChurchMandalay, he was brave, astute
ChurchMandalay; d. 1963.
SOAS/WMMS/Correspondence/FBN2/Walters–Goudie, 7 August 1924,
Shepherd– Noble, 13 March 1924 and Synod Minutes, January 1924. Ma Chit was a Baptist
who forged Po Tun’s signature in a post office savings book; the birth certificate
proved that Maung Thein Maung was the father of her son.
Winston, Four Years in Upper Burma , pp. 228–229.
SOAS/WMMS/Minutes/FBN1/Pakokku Circuit Report, 31 December
), Maung Maung Galay, Maung Soe, Saya U Myint,
Maung Chein (‘everybody’s friend’), Saya Po Maung and U Po Min, an inmate
in the Leper Home ‘for the past fifty years’, all died in 1941. 107 In December 1941 people crammed
anxiously into WesleyChurchMandalay for the carol service. A tearful Christmas concert was
held in the Girls High School. War swept towards Upper Burma and it signalled the end of an
D.W. Bebbington, ‘Atonement, Sin and Empire,
1880–1914’, in The Imperial
again became troublesome’. 71 These were understatements. Things looked very different to people on
the ground. For nationalist students the next few months were euphoric, but they were
catastrophic as far as the Wesleyan missionaries were concerned.
News that the Methodist schools were being attacked filtered into WesleyChurchMandalay where Synod was meeting in January 1939. The police were overstretched and
Burmese newspapers had inflamed ‘the public with gross exaggeration’. The
‘formlessness of the unrest’ was