Methodist Church, Sri Lanka
Methodist mission began in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1814, with the arrival of a team of missionaries sent by the British Conference. At the 150th anniversary, in 1964, the Conference of the Methodist Church, Ceylon received its full autonomy. From the very beginning education has had an important role and schools were established in many places. Of the 177 Methodist schools in 1960, 175 were taken over by the government that year. The church retained one school for boys and one for girls. It has gone into pre-school education, setting up 37 preschools, 15 day-care centres, 22 childrens' homes and 25 nutrition feeding centres, serving the poorest of the poor children. The church has a vigorous social service programme with six homes for the elderly, a ministry for the deaf, a hospital and a few clinics, several vocational training projects, two farms and three refugee camps. The Wesley Press, the first printing press in Sri Lanka, is involved in publishing and runs a bookshop.
The evangelists of the Methodist Church are working in frontier areas. New work has begun in some thirty villages and the church is seeking to establish 500 new communities. It is also experimenting with new forms of liturgy, introducing creative, indigenous models of worship. The youth department overlooks the work of the Wesley Guilds, Senior and Junior, the Youth Fellowships and Bible/Sunday schools. The membership of the church is larger than the present figure suggests, because statistics from some areas in the north are not available due to the civil conflict. The ministers are trained at the Theological College of Lanka, an ecumenical institution. The Methodist Church runs two evangelist training colleges for the formation of its evangelists.
With about 45 percent Tamil and 55 percent Sinhala members, the Methodist Church is in a unique position to witness to the unity in Christ. Peace and reconciliation projects include caring for victims of violence, peace education and conflict resolution workshops, exchange programmes for young people belonging to different ethnic communities, statements, peace walks, and mediation in times of ethnic conflict. The interfaith seminars on the peace process, organized by the Methodist Church, have brought together Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities. The church has taken an active part in rehabilitation after the tsunami disaster of December 2004.