Methodists in Lower Myanmar Elect Rev. U Saw Shwe as Bishop
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, March 4, 2010--The Rev. U Saw Shwe, a former World Communion Scholar, is the new bishop of The Methodist Church in Lower Myanmar. He was chosen in late February by the denomination that has roots in mission work from the United States.
Bishop Saw Shwe, 62, is a long-time pastor and was superintendent of the Chinese District of his church from 1986 to 2001. He was ordained a Methodist elder in 1980.
He returned to the academy in August 2005 under a World Communion scholarship from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, graduating in June 2007 from the Myanmar Institute of Theology, Yangon, with a Doctorate of Ministry (D.Min) in Pastoral Care and Theological Education.
The new bishop succeeds Bishop Zothan Mawia, who had served since 2000. The Methodist Church of Lower Myanmar (formerly Burma) has some 3,000 members. It has experienced various internal conflicts in past decades but has strived to reach internal reconciliation in recent years.
The Methodist Church of Upper Myanmar is a distinct denomination that emerged from British Methodist origins. The church in Lower Myanmar was launched in 1879 by missionary (later bishop) James Thoburn.
World Communion (formerly Crusade) Scholarships are aimed at preparing leaders for church and society. They are supported in large measure by the World Communion Offering made by United Methodist congregations each year.
Bishop Saw Shwe joined the Methodist Church of Lower Myanmar in 1964. He initially studied botany at the Arts and Science University in Mandalay, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971.
He received a Bachelor of Theology degree from Myanmar Institute of Theology in 1976, the same year in which he became pastor of Christ Methodist Church, Yangon, a position he held for 25 years. Along the way, he studied at the Singapore Bible College and Trinity Theological College, also in Singapore.
Bishop Saw Shwe has also served as principal of the Methodist Bible School of Lower Myanmar and general secretary of the denomination. He and his wife, Saw Win Win Khaing, have three adult children.
As pastor and scholar, the new bishop has a deep commitment to "holistic mission," the belief that the work of Jesus Christ through the church is to restore entire human beings and their cultures and communities. Christ's kingdom, he has written, "comes to both individuals and societies."
Myanmar has a strongly centralized government, a fact that often causes difficulties for both evangelism and Christian social outreach. A majority of the people of the country are Buddhists.
The Bishop Consecration Service will be held on March 14, 2010, Sunday 12:30 pm at the Methodist English Church, Yangon.
Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Mar 04, 2010