A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ELCM
The ELCM is basically a Tamil Lutheran Church, although there has always been work done in English, and now, in Bahasa Malaysia. Tamil Lutherans came in with the workforce from Tamil Nadu, India, in the 1800’s.As early as 1900, when the first missionaries from the Leipzig Mission visited Penang, there were already 315 Tamil Lutherans in that state. Through the efforts of these missionaries, Rev. T. Joseph of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church(TELC), India, came to organize the Lutherans and had the first regular divine worship service on 30th January, 1907 in Scott Road, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. This marked the beginning of a consolidated effort to establish Lutheran work in Malaysia.’
The Lutherans were scattered throughout the country and the work was divided into two areas, centred in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. With the help of Pastors from the TELC, and regular support of the Leipzig Missionaries at first and then the Church of Sweden Mission later, the Lutheran Church began to be more organized.
In the 1960’s, Rev.Bertil Envall from the Church of Sweden Mission(CSM), held meetings with the representatives from Penang and Kuala Lumpur for the merger of the two districts. This led to the establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore(ELCMS), with the Rt.Rev.Bertil Envall as the first Bishop in 1966.
From that time, the Church grew by leaps and bounds, leading to local people graduating from the seminary as Pastors. The first Local Bishop, the Rt.Rev.E.B.Muthusami was consecrated on the 31st October, 1976. The second local Bishop, the Rt.Rev.Julius D. Paul was consecrated on the 10th April 1988. In 1994, the ELCMS had to separate from Singapore and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia (ELCM).The current Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Solomon Rajah was elected on the 1 st of November 2008 and consecrated on the 21 st February 2009.
The Church has grown from its humble beginnings as an outreach for missionaries to 20 congregations, 10 outreaches and 4 institutions with 16 Pastors, 4 evangelists, and many church workers.
The Structure of the ELCM
Christian faith is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. But God calls christians into local Churches so that faith may be strengthened in fellowship with other believers. This is the purpose of membership in a Christian congregation and the wider fellowship of an organized church.
Lutheran congregations in each locality are mostly autonomous, subject to the authority of the Diocese in terms of policy and major decisions. They are responsible for the ministry of the Gospel in that place. The local congregation may initiate outreaches, institutions, or cooperate with other churches in the area to carry out the ministry. The local congregation receives the Pastor sent from the Diocese. The Pastor is called to preach and teach the Word of God, administer the Sacraments and to counsel and equip the members for their life of faith and Christian service. The term “Pastor” is the title commonly given by Lutherans to their minister. It comes from the Latin word for “shepherd”.
The congregations form the Diocese at the national level, the overall body that is the ELCM. This results in mission and service which individual congregations cannot carry out by themselves. The pastors and lay delegates from every congregation meet at the annual Diocesan Assembly to decide on policy matters and elect the Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Council is the executive body of the ELCM. The Diocesan Council is chaired by the Bishop who is the head of the Church. He is responsible for the day to day administration, doctrinal, ministerial, pastoral, liturgical, ecclesiological, legislative and administrative matters of the Church.