International and local Lutheran mission partners
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar (ELCM) / Lutheran Bethlehem Church
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar (ELCM) was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ through Rev. A. Mayor from the Leipzig, German Mission in 1878 for the migrant workers who came from India to Burma. The initial ministry began in the railway station in Yangon. Up to 65 pastors eventually came from India to serve in the mission. Ministries run by the church included mission schools, orphanages and clinics. The British colonial government relocated the church to the current location in 1910. As the new location was much smaller than the previous church, all these ministries were shut down.
In 1962 all foreigners were expelled from Burma (Myanmar) within 24 hours, resulting in an instant decline in the church as educated workers left the country and the church. The church fell into a crisis almost immediately. Those left behind were the lowly educated and subsistent workers.
With the help of church partners ELCM has continued to proclaim the Gospel to the people of Myanmar and the Tamil and Telugu speaking Indians who began the church. It currently has 3,000 members spread around 6 of the 14 Divisions/States in Myanmar, 28 missions and a 250 strong youth ministry, using 6 different languages (Burmese, Urmese, Karin, Tamil, Telugu and English). On average, there are 60-100 baptisms a year in the church.
Although ELCM-LBC is small in size, Under the umbrella of its diakonia work are activities such as:
- food security
- livelihood training
- medical mission (HIV work, Malaria prevention and treatment, and general health care)
- education (facilitate poor and street kids to be in schools)
- vocational training program for youths and women
- human rights education and advocacy training for youths and women
- food delivery programs (for the sick and cancer patients in Yangon General Hospital)
- micro- financing and income generation.
Some of the works are done in collaboration with the local political party and ecumenical partners. In all these diakonia work, the proclamation of the gospel is an important aspect.
ELCM is a founding member church of Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), Myanmar Indian Churches Fellowship, Myanmar Bible Society, Yangon Christian Council (YCC), Catholic Bishop Conference of Myanmar and Myanmar Council of Churches Join Commission, member church of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) from 2000.
Lutheran Church of Myanmar (LCM)
The Lutheran Church in Myanmar (LCM) was formed in 1995 by the Mizo community who are living in Sagiang Division bordering India and had Baptist/Presbyterian background. The founder of the Lutheran Church in Myanmar (LCM) was Rev Dr Lal Sawi Thanga. Rev Dr Lal Sawi Thanga was well known in the Christian community of Myanmar as a respected writer and translator of many Christian books. His translations include Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and the book Luther, the Reformer into the Burmese and Mizo. He and the other pastors with their congregation left the Baptist Church because of disagreement on infant baptism following the discovery of Luther and Lutheran teaching.
The Mizo people from both Myanmar and India regularly connect with each other and the ministries/relationships transverse both nations. The executive committee met on January 5, 2000 in Tahan, about 800 miles from Yangon unanimously decided to form Lutheran Church of Myanmar. Subsequently, Yangon became its administrative headquarters, and Tahan is the sub-headquarter and center for field ministry areas.
LCM is synodical in structure and oversee by a President and executive council. Rev Martin Lalthangliana became president in 2017. LCM has four departments:
- Lutheran Women Society
- Lutheran Youth Fellowship
- Evangelism and Mission
- Literature and Education
The Lutheran Church of Myanmar currently has 10 congregations, 2 preaching stations, 3 free education centers, 2 children homes and 1 seminary. They have 7 ordained pastors, 3 assistant/probationary pastors, 4 missionaries, 5 lay leaders, 7 evangelists and church workers totaling 26 Synod and local church workers, who oversee around 2000 members all over the country with a prospect of rapid growth in membership and mission expansion.
LCM was started with three small congregations with a vision to reach out to more enthic people and a wider community. In order to implement their mission and to propagate the understanding of Lutheran identity in Myanmar, the church leaders decided to start a training centre. On March 30, 2017, a management board was formed to continue the theological education of LCM. This institution will reach out to ethnic young people from different parts of the country and equip them with confessional Lutheran teachings.
Approximately 70% of LCM’s church members are Chins and Mizos, small ethnic groups, and the rest are Burmese and others.
70% of the members are located in rural areas in Chin State and the vast Kabaw Valley of Sagaing region. Most of them are farmers and mini traders. The remaining 30% are in Yangon, Magwe and its surroundings.
It is LCM’s hope and prayer to reach out to non-believers in Myanmar with the gospel, fulfil the great commission; and on a wider scope, work with their Lutheran brothers and sisters around the world, to fulfil their worldwide mutual obligations.
Mara Evangelical Church (MEC)
The Mara people (formerly known as Lakher) are an ethnic group whose territory is situated on both sides of the border between India and Myanmar. There is a Maraland in the Mizoram State of India and a Maraland in the Chin State of Myanmar.
Rev. and Mrs. Reginald Arthur Lorrains began the Lakher (Mara) Pioneer Mission in the year 1905 in London, five years before the International Mission Conference (IMC) was held in Edinburgh where birth was given to the modern ecumenical movement. At that time, the Mara community was small and fragile with less than 10,000 people and isolated from other parts of the world.
The Lorrains began their mission work by prayer and faith with a small number donations from their immediate mission-minded friends (who came from different denominational backgrounds). Within five decades the Mara Society came to know Jesus Christ and the Lorrains had reduced the Mara dialect into Roman alphabets. They completed translation of the whole Bible into Mara dialect in 1956. It is the first ever Bible within Mizoram State and Chin State.
The tiny Mara society was torn in two in the year 1937 when India and Burma was divided into two political administrations under British rule. Moreover, this division was confirmed in the year 1947 when India got her independence and in the year 1948 when Burma gained her independence.
The whole Mara Independent Evangelical Church (MIEC) was under one umbrella of its annual Assembly until 1967. Due to the political situation of Burma in the 1960s, the MIEC in the East (Burma) was given the status of independence in 1967. Unfortunately, due to the very complex and complicated process of change among the Mara society, the Mara Church split into Mara Independent Evangelical Church (MIEC) and Mara Independent Church (MIC).
It took them 17 years to unify again in 1987 through the contributions of the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) in the person of Rev. Smith Ngulh Za Thawng, former General Secretary of the MCC, during the Joint Assembly of the MIEC and the MIC in February 1987. At the unification a new name was adopted, Mara Evangelical Church (MEC), to signify their unity.
Mara joined the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 2010. At that time it was said “Dr. Martin Luther himself did not want to name the Church after his name; he wanted to reform the church, the body of Jesus Christ. The LWF is not inviting the MEC to promote and enrich the LWF, but to promote the church, the body of Jesus Christ together. This is ecumenical; it is the spirit of the unity of the church. Not uniformity but unity in diversity. It is to think globally and act locally.”
MEC is evangelical in outlook and strongly committed to a holistic ministry combined with evangelism. Included in the Mara Evangelical Church are 32,171 members (including 23,776 members in Maraland and in other countries and 112 across 7 other mission fields), 196 local congregations (including 84 local congregations in Maraland, 112 across 7 other mission fields), 57 pastors (including 45 ordained pastors, 7 probationary pastors) and 80 missionaries serving across 7 mission fields.
Myanmar Lutheran Church (MLC)
An extension of the partnership support with the Lutheran Church in Malaysia, has been and continues through support for their mission partnership in theological training for the pastors and ministry leaders in Myanmar, particularly through the Myanmar Lutheran Church.
Myanmar Lutheran Church (MLC) was founded on 1 March 1998 with the support of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore. There were five members (Rev Dr Andrew Mang Lone now Bishop, his wife and three children) in the founding Church. Today there are nearly 3500 members, 17 ordained pastors, 23 evangelists, 14 congregations and multifaceted ministries – an orphanage, Radio Bible Ministry, Riverbank ministry, healing ministry, student hostel ministry, organic farming project, Christian training program and new church planting program.
The ministry began initially to serve the Khumi ethnic group. However, now the ministry also incorporates people from the Asho Chin, Rakhine, Hakha Chin, Burmese, Karin groups with services conducted in Burmese. The MLC is represented in three districts (Yangon, Paletwa and Miza) through 14 congregations.
Yangon is administrative headquarters and Paletwa is the sub- head quarter and centre for the field ministry areas.
MLC participates in Lutheran Distinctive Courses for pastors and evangelists twice a year conducted by Rev Dr Philip Tan and Rev Wolfgang (ELC Bavaria missionary in Malaysia) from Lutheran Church in Malaysia and now in conjunction with some of the other LWF Myanmar member Churches.
Federation of Lutheran Churches in Myanmar
The four LWF member churches in Myanmar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work cooperatively under the banner of the Federation of Lutheran Churches in Myanmar (FLCM). The Mekong Mission Forum Meeting in May 2012 encouraged the leaders from the four member churches to form the National Committee of Lutheran Churches in Myanmar by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. In 2013, the key leaders of the Myanmar Lutheran Church, Mara Evangelical Church in Myanmar and the Lutheran Church of Myanmar joined, with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar joining them in 2016.
The Federation of the Lutheran Churches in Myanmar confess the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only and norm of its doctrine, life and service. It sees in the three Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, especially in the unaltered Augsburg Confession and the Small Catechism of Martin Luther, a pure exposition of the Word of God. It is FLCM which stands as the important platform for bringing the unity and the communion spirit among the member churches and the other ecumenical churches in Myanmar.
The Federation of the Lutheran Churches in Myanmar has 6 Office Bearers, 6 Executive Committee members and 2 Advisors to strengthen the capacity of the ministry of God in Myanmar through the mutual respect and cooperation.
Office – Bearers ( 2019-2021)
- President : Rev. Thaung Lin (MEC)
- Vice- President : Rev. Dr. Jenson Rajan Andrews (LBC)
- General Secretary : Rev. Martin Lalthangliana (LCM)
- Treasurer : Mr. Luke Andrew (LBC)
- Women Coordinator : Pastor Si Khei (MEC)
- Youth Coordinator : Rev. Moses Mang (MLC)
Executive Committee (2019-2021)
- James San Aung, member (MLC)
- Peter Hoi Be, member (MLC)
- Van Ding Lian, member (MEC)
- Jan Philip, member (LBC)
- Win Naing, member (LCM)
- Mary Hrangliani, member (LCM)
- Bishop Dr. Andrew Mang Lone, Advisor (MLC)
- Dr. L.B Siama, Advisor (MEC)
Each of the churches have their own networks of supporters. All four churches are linked through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Mekong Mission Forum (MMF), and through the Federation of Lutheran Churches in Myanmar (FELM)
Myanmar Lutheran Church is closely connected to the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and with strong links and support from the ELCA (America) and the ELCB (Bavaria, through Mission EineWelt).
Lutheran Church in Myanmar has strong links to and support from Asia Focus and some connections LISA (Lutheran Institute of South East Asia) and also to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
The Mara Evangelical Lutheran Church has affiliation with the following: The Evangelical Church of Maraland from 1966, The National Missionary Society of India from 2007, LWF (2010), Mekong Mission Forum. Social Action partners are: Kindernothilfe (KNH), Germany from 2007, EED from Germany from 2009. The MEC also holds membership in Myanmar Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, World Communion of Reformed Churches, World Council of Churches.
The Lutheran Bethlehem Church (or Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar as it is also known) ministry/mission commenced by the Leipzig Lutheran Mission, and was formerly supported by the Lutheran Church of Sweden (this has ceased). Current partnerships are as follows: LWF (2000) and LWF Mekong Mission Forum, and associations with other (non-Lutheran) denominations in Malaysia and Singapore, Myanmar Council of Churches, World Council of Churches and Myanmar Indian Churches Fellowship.