On 3rd August 1963, the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore was formally constituted with the Rev. Paul Alberti installed as the first President.
The seeds of this work however was planted much earlier from the contributions of many people from different lands and cultures.
As with Lutheran churches elsewhere, the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore can trace its roots directly to the Protestant Reformation that took place in Europe in the 16th century. This is our story.
Martin Luther & The Reformation
In 1517, a series of statements for debate known as the 95 Theses was nailed to the door of the Wattenberg Castle Church in Saxony, Germany. This innocuous event sparked a theological and spiritual movement that eventually became known as the Protestant Reformation.
The Early Years In Malaya
In the wake of a Communist insurgency, a convergence of Lutherans from China, India, Scandinavia and the USA saw the beginning of a mission to serve the needs of the displaced ethnic Chinese rural population of Malaya.
Transitioning From A Mission
Barely ten years after the mission begins, the first Asian pastors are ordained and the mission is organized as a national Church body. The Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore also sees a gradual transition of leadership from expatriates to national workers.
Self Reliance & Indigenisation
As the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore grows, more national workers are ordained and work expands to minister to the Orang Asli community. Self sufficiency was achieved and the first national worker is consecrated as the Bishop.
Our Milestones (1952-1958)
26-29 March First Southeast Asia Lutheran Consultative Conference in Penang. Explore possibilities of starting Lutheran mission work among Chinese in New Villages of Malaya and extends requests to overseas mssions boards. Board of Foreign Missions (BFM) of the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) pledges support of the proposed mission work by funds and personnel.
Arrival of the first American missionaries in Malaya: Dr. Paul Anspach, Rev. Douglas Erikson, and Ms. Clara Sulliva. Lutheran mission work begins in the New Villages in Selangor : Semenyih, Broga, Balakong, Cheras 9th and 11th Mile.
Arrival of the first Chinese evangelists from Hong Kong: Stephen Han and Yang Tao Tung, and Rev. Daniel Chu. Lutheran work expands to the New Villages in Perak, around Ipoh (Menglembu, Tronoh, Bukit Merah) and in the Grik Valley (Ayer Kala, Grik). Beginning of the “medical ministry” by take-over of medical clinics in Ipoh, Northern Perak and Selangor. Start of the first Christian mission work in the urban area of Petaling Jaya (Good Shepherd Congregation).
Arrival of American missionaries (Rev. Helmut Matzat, Rev. John and Betty Lou Nelson) and former China missionaries from Germany (Rev. Hermann Hofmeister, Rev. Wilhelm Weickum, Rev. Friedrich Schmitt).Formation of
Grace Lutheran Church in Menglembu.
Pastoral training in special “preparatory classes” begins for
the first group of 9 local students.
31 August: Independence of Malaya from British Colonial Government. Approval of the “Administrative Council” as leading organ by the Board of Foreign Missions of ULCA.
Official opening of the “Lutheran Bible Training Institute” (LBTI) in Petaling Jaya
as local training facility for pastoral staff.
Our Milestones (1960-1969)
Expansion of Lutheran work to Chinese in Singapore: establishment of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Death of the American missionary Ms. Clara Sullivan on her way back to USA. Implementation of the stewardship principle: critical evaluation and reorganisation of mission programmes and institutions, “holding action” for consolidation of expenses.
Graduation of the first group of local students of theology from LBTI. Failure of negotiations with the Tamil speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church on the formation of one united national Lutheran Church in Malaya. 12 August: Constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaya (ELCM) for Tamil speaking Lutherans. LCMS becomes a member of Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Closure of medical work in Selangor.
Formation of the Federation of Malaysia with inclusion of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. 3 August: Official constitution of the Lutheran Church in Malaya for the Chinese, Rev. Paul Alberti is elected first President (1963-1964).
Election of Rev. Ray Nyce as 2nd President of LCM (1964-1969). Opening of the Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Graduation of the second batch of theological students and closure of LBTI. First ordination of Chinese pastors (from Hong Kong) in LCM: Rev. Yang Tao Tung, Rev. Chin Tao Sum, and Rev. Chang Kok Sang.
Separation of Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia.
Change of the name in “Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore” (LCMS).
First consultation meeting between LCMS and BWM-LCA.
Election of Rev. Carl Fisher as President of LCMS (1969-1973).
Our Milestones (1970-1979)
Promotion of the ten-year plan for achieving self-reliance.
LCMS joins the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as a member. Closure of Civic Centre activities at Jurong Christian Church in Singapore. Tentative end of medical ministry: closing of last clinic in Menglembu.
Position of LCMS treasurer and business manager put in local hands. LCMS takes over existing ministry to the Sengois and starts work among other groups of Orang Asli in the Cameron Highlands.
Renaming of LCMS President as “Bishop”. Rev. Carl Fisher is re-elected
for second term (1974-1977) and is the first Bishop of LCMS.
Registration of “Glad Sounds Sendirian Berhad”, the commercial media branch of LCMS.
Election of Peter Foong as the first local Malaysian
Bishop of LCMS (1977-1985).
1978 / 79
Set up of new congregations in Johor Bahru, Singapore and Ipoh (First Garden)
Our Milestones (1980-1989)
LCMS achieves self-reliance under Bishop Peter Foong.
Election of Rev. Daniel Chong as Bishop of LCMS (1985-1993).
Ordination of the first Singaporean pastor, Rev. Edmund Lim.
LCMS becomes one of four partners of the Lutheran Mission in Thailand.
Return of the last American missionary (DGM) – formal end of
foreign missionary presence in the LCMS.
Launch of the “Thai Good News Centre” in Singapore to provide pastoral care, counsellin and English classes for Thai workers.
First Consultation to discuss restructuring of LCMS: Gradual transition of the LCMS Singapore District into an autonomous Lutheran Church in Singapore. Women Symposium debates the ordination of female pastors.
Set up of a new International Lutheran Seafarers’ Mission in Singapore in cooperation with the Evang.-Lutheran Church in Bavaria/Germany. Rev. Werner Strauss is the first Seafarers’ Chaplain. Election of Rev. Gideon Chang as bishop (1993-2005).Convention accepts proposal of the Restructuring Committee to form two church bodies in Malaysia and Singpore within four years. Convention decides the ordination of female co-workers in LCMS. Take-over of the Xin-Yi-Dai ministry in Ipoh to reach out Chinese by “mission through culture”
First ordination of female pastors in LCMS: Rev. Low Wui Li, Rev. Mah Choy Yin, Rev. Lui Bee Leng.
Biennial Convention approves of the proposed Constitution of the Lutheran Church in Singapore (LCS). Support of the theological training in Fujian Province / China by visiting LCMS lecturers begins.
First annual Mission Consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (ELCB). First training course for Chinese lay leaders in Ho Chi Minh City / Vietnam by visiting
Biennial Convention works on the formation of two national Lutheran churches in Malaysia and Singapore. 30 October: Official constitution of the Lutheran Church in Singapore.
Support of the newly established Myanmar Lutheran Church (MLC) by funds and visiting lecturers commences.
Our Milestones (2002-2010)
Launch of the Social Concerns Ministry with the “Mission Statement”.
The Lutheran Church in Australia (LCA) is invited to the Mission Consultation as third partner in mission.
Election of Rev. Philip Lok as Bishop.
Presentation of the “Luther Plan” as guideline and development plan of LCMS and the ministries. Ms Timah Bah Dek graduates from Sabah Theological College and becomes first native Orang Asli pastor to serve in the Cameron Highlands.
Approval of the building plans of the new Headquarters and lease of the land in Jalan Utara / Petaling Jaya by municipal authorities. Commissioning of Pastor Edna and Daniel Wong for mission work in Kyrgyzstan. Launch of “Touching Hearts”, a scholarship programme for Orang Asli students.
Opening of Subang Lutheran Garden (Phase 1 of the Christian Memorial Park).
Establishment of a new Chinese speaking congregation in Kuala Lumpur City Centre for reaching out business people. First National Lutheran Conference assembles over 1000 LCMS members in Port Dickson
August: Dedication of “Luther Centre”, the new Headquarters of LCMS in Jalan Utara Ordination of 11 pastors in the 30th Biennial Convention. Representatives of the Lutheran Church in Singapore join the Mission Forum.
Luther Centre hosts interreligious discussions responding to the attacks on churches. Opening of the Centre for Theological Education by Extension of the Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) at Luther Centre. Commissioning of Pastor Edna and Daniel Wong for mission work in the International Congregation and among Chinese workers in Madang / Papua New Guinea. First National Pastors and Lay Leaders Forum in Port Dickson.
Compiled by Wolfgang Grieninger
(The chronology of the years 1951 to 1991 is based on Warren Lau: A Heavenly Vision. The story of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, 1951-1991 (Petaling Jaya: The Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, pp.xviii-xx). Other sources used are unpublished papers of the LCMS Biennial Conventions and Annual Mission Consultations.)