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Church of the Province of South East Asia

Church of the Province of Southeast Asia
Provincial Crest of the Province of Anglican Church in South East Asia
Independence 1902
Primate Most Reverend Datuk Bolly Lapok, Bishop of Kuching
Headquarters Singapore
Territory Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei and Nepal
Members 98,000
Website Diocese of Singapore

The Church of the Province of South East Asia, a member church of the Anglican Communion, was created in 1996, comprising the four dioceses of Kuching, Sabah, Singapore and West Malaysia. The current Metropolitan Archbishop is the Bishop of Kuching, the Most Reverend Datuk Bolly Lapok.


Early Developments

Anglicanism was first introduced with the establishment of the British East India Company's settlement of Penang Island in 1786. George Caunter, a local magistrate, was appointed as a Lay Clerk/Acting Chaplain in 1799 under the jurisdiction of the See of Calcutta. In 1819, the first Anglican church building, the Church of St. George the Martyr, was consecrated by the Bishop of Calcutta, Thomas Fanshawe Middleton.

In 1826, the Mission Chapel of the London Missionary Society (LMS) started services in Singapore and the first church building in Singapore was built in 1837. In 1842, a missionary of the LMS started the first girls school in Singapore, now known as St. Margaret's School. The work in Borneo started in 1848 when a group of missionaries led by Francis Thomas McDougall was invited by James Brooke, the Rajah of Sarawak. In 1849, a wooden church was built in Kuching. In 1851, this church was consecrated by Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta in honour of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Establishment of Missionary Dioceses

Letters patent was issued in 1855 to establish the Bishopric of Labuan and McDougall was appointed the first Bishop of Labuan. McDougall was also appointed the Bishop of Sarawak by the Rajah of Sarawak due to the political conventions of the day ruled that no Anglican Diocese might be created outside the limits of the British Empire, and Sarawak was then technically an independent kingdom. This practice prevailed until the Sarawak became a Crown Colony in 1946.

In 1867, The East India Company transferred Penang to the British Crown and with that ended the chaplaincy of the Madras Presidency in Penang. The Anglican churches in Penang, Malacca and Singapore were organised into the Church in the Straits Settlement while remaining under the jurisdiction of the See of Calcutta.

The Church in the Straits Settlement was separated from the See of Calcutta by an Act of Parliament in 1869 and placed under the episcopal care of the Bishop of Labuan as the United Diocese of Singapore, Labuan and Sarawak. In 1909, the United Diocese was further divided into the Diocese of Singapore, the Diocese of Labuan and the Bishopric of Sarawak. The 3 separate Dioceses developed independently from then onwards until the creation of the Province.

Anglican work in Malaya and Singapore (1909-1996)

The period between the division of the United Diocese and the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific, missionary work continued with increasing ordination of local clergy and planting of churches all throughout the Malaya and Singapore.

During the duration of the Second World War, most expatriate clergy and missionaries were interned by the Japanese. Without the benefit of its expatriate clergy, the work of the church fell on the shoulders of local clergy and church workers.

This development highlighted the urgent need for training local leaders for this developing part of the Anglican Church and eventually led to the establishment of Singapore's Trinity Theological College in 1951.

File:Sir James Brooke (1847) by Francis Grant.jpg
James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak brought in missionaries in 1848.

Malaya gained her independence from British rule in 1957. Following this, in 1960, the Diocese was renamed the Diocese of Singapore and Malaya. In 1970, the churches in West Malaysia were separated from the Diocese and reconstituted as the Diocese of West Malaysia by an Act of Parliament and the Diocese was renamed the Diocese of Singapore.

Anglican work in British Borneo (1909-1996)

Work in British Borneo after the division of the United Diocese until the outbreak of the Second World War followed a similar pattern to the work in Malaya and Singapore. Anglican missionaries were however more successful than their counterparts in Malaya and Singapore in evangelising the indigenous peoples.

Following the devastation of the Second World War, the Diocese of Labuan and the Bishopric of Sarawak was joined together as the Diocese of Borneo and the first Bishop, Nigel Cornwall, was consecrated in 1949. In 1962, the Diocese was again divided into the Diocese of Jesselton (later Diocese of Sabah) which included Labuan, and the Diocese of Kuching which included Brunei.

Province of South East Asia

In 1996, autocephaly was attained when the Province of South East Asia consisting of the Dioceses of West Malaysia, Singapore, Kuching and Sabah was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Reverend Dr Moses Tay, Bishop of Singapore, was consecrated as the first Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province the same year. The Province celebrated its 10th Anniversary in February 2006.


Today, there are at least 98,000 Anglicans out of an estimated population of 23.8 million.


The polity of the Church of the Province of South East Asia is Episcopalian church governance, which is the same as other Anglican churches. The church maintains a system of geographical parishes organised into dioceses. The Province is divided into four dioceses. Furthermore, the Dioceses of Kuching, West Malaysia and Singapore are further subdivided into archdeaconries and deaneries respectively.

Current diocesan bishops

List of primates of South East Asia

Archbishops of South East Asia
From Until Incumbent Notes
1996 2000 Moses Tay Also Bishop of Singapore 1982–1999.
2000 2006[1] Datuk Yong Ping Chung Also Bishop of Sabah since c. 1990.[2]
2006 12 February 2012 John Chew Retiring before February 2012; also Bishop of Singapore since 2000.
12 February 2012 Present Datuk Bolly Lapok Elected in September 2011;,[3] Installed on 12 February,[4] 2012. Also Bishop of Kuching since 2007.

Worship and liturgy

The Church of the Province of South East Asia embraces three orders of ministry: deacon, priest, and bishop. A local variant of the Book of Common Prayer is used.

Doctrine and practice

File:Amoy Hymnbook.JPG
The Amoy Hymnal published by St. Stephen's Parish, Manila, Philippines

The center of the Church of the Province of South East Asia's teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic teachings of the church, or catechism, includes:

The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way. This balance of scripture, tradition and reason is traced to the work of Richard Hooker, a sixteenth-century apologist. In Hooker's model, scripture is the primary means of arriving at doctrine and things stated plainly in scripture are accepted as true. Issues that are ambiguous are determined by tradition, which is checked by reason.[5]

Ecumenical relations

The dioceses of the Church of the Province of South East Asia participate in the ecumenical World Council of Churches via their respective national church councils:

  • Council of Churches of Malaysia[6]
    • Diocese of Kuching
    • Diocese of Sabah
    • Diocese of West Malaysia
  • National Council of Churches of Singapore[7]
    • Diocese of Singapore

However, unlike many other Anglican churches, the Church of the Province of South East Asia is not a member of the World Council of Churches in its own right.[8]

Anglican realignment

Together with the Church of the Province of Rwanda, the Church of the Province of South East Asia maintained a missionary organisation, the Anglican Mission in the Americas, in the United States and Canada, from 2000 to 2011. The Church of the Province of South East Asia has been active in the Anglican realignment, as member of the Global South and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

See also


Further reading

  • Anglicanism, Neill, Stephen. Harmondsworth, 1965.

External links