Collaboration, Christian mission and contextualisation : the overseas missionary fellowship in West Malaysia from 1952 to 1977

Mcclymont, Allen (2021) Collaboration, Christian mission and contextualisation : the overseas missionary fellowship in West Malaysia from 1952 to 1977. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The rise of communism in China began a chain of events which eventually led to the largest influx of Protestant missionaries into Malaya and Singapore in their history. During the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), a key part of the British Government’s strategy to defeat communist insurgents was the relocation of more than 580,000 predominantly Chinese rural migrantsinto what became known as the ‘New Villages’. This thesis examines the response of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), as a representative of the Protestant missionary enterprise, to an invitation from the Government to serve in the New Villages. It focuses on the period between their arrival in 1952 and 1977, when the majority of missionaries had left the country, and assesses how successful the OMF was in fulfilling its own expectation and those of the Government that invited them. It concludes that in seeking to fulfil Government expectation, residential missionaries were an influential presence, a presence which contributed to the ongoing viability of the New Villages after their establishment and beyond Independence. It challenges the portrayal of Protestant missionaries as cultural imperialists as an outdated paradigm with which to assess their role. By living in the New Villages under the same restrictions as everyone else, missionaries unconsciously became conduits of Western culture and ideas. At the same time, through learning local languages and supporting indigenous agency, they encouraged New Village inhabitants to adapt to Malaysian society, while also retaining their Chinese identity. It goes on to argue that the OMF, through its network of new and existing churches, and the parachurch organisations it was involved with, contributed in three ways to the growth of Christianity among the Chinese population in West Malaysia. Through its pioneer church-planting in the New Villages it facilitated the establishment of countercultural Christian communities. Its support of these Chinese-speaking churches laid the foundation for later growth. Through evangelism and discipleship of English- and Chinese-educated young people, and pastoring English-speaking urban congregations, the OMF was able to meet a strategic need and further support the growth of Christianity among Malaysian young people. The wide range of ministries it was involved with, enabled it to influence the growth of local leadership throughout West Malaysia. This new generation of leaders, influenced by the conservative evangelical theology of OMF missionaries, was able to develop a contextualised Malaysian Christianity that effectively responded to the postcolonial situation they found themselves in.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page