The Methodist Missionaries who landed in the Gale Fort on 29th June 1814 established the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka.
Professor A. J. Grant in his history book titled “Europe in the last 500 years” has commented that the Methodist movement, pioneered by the Reverend John Benjamin Wesley, was equally popular among all sectors of society – from the city worker to the laborer and also among both the rich and poor. He further comments that the workers’ revolution among the coal mine workers in Britain was averted due to the Methodist movement in the 18th century and that this impact was of special significance. He states that the influence of the Methodist Church resulted in better relationships between employer and employee which in turn led to avert a workers’ revolt.
The teachings of the Methodist Church at the time was based on the biblical teachings of Jesus where Jesus talked about the “Kingdom of God” being established on this earth; a kingdom where the poor enjoy liberation from poverty, where there is freedom for those who suffer injustice and are in bondage and where the rich are motivated to use their wealth and time for the benefit of the poor.
This is what is known as the “Gospel for the poor” and it is with this divine vision-a gospel for the people of Ceylon that Dr. Thomas Coke set out from England.
One of the top priorities of the early Methodist missionaries was to raise the literacy level of the local population. Professor Sucharitha Gamlath in his English-Sinhala dictionary pays tribute to Rev. Benjamin Clough, the youngest member of the Methodist missionaries who first came to Ceylon with his pioneering work in compiling and printing dictionaries in this country.
Since John Wesley was the pioneer of Methodism, the early Methodist church was known as the Weslyan Methodist Church.
The Methodist Church was instrumental in regularizing the school structure in our country. When the school take-over took place, the Methodist Church had established over two hundred schools. Today, only Wesley College and Methodist College, both in Colombo, remain as Methodist schools in the island.
Technical Institutions were also established by the Methodist Church in different parts of the island. The Seed Research Institute, Hingurakgoda, a Methodist institution, made an enormous contribution to agriculture in our land.
The Dutch first introduced the printing press to our country and today this has become the Government Press. Second to this was the Wesley Press, established in 1814 by the Methodist Church. M.D. Gunasena, one of our illustrious printing giants received his training at the Wesley Press.
Many professionals, teachers, artists and politicians, who contributed much to our country, had their education in Methodist institutions. Among them are our current president, the honorable Mahinda Rajapkse, the Honorable Speaker Chamal Rajapakse, a former prime minister Wijayananda Dahanayake and a former president, Ranasinghe Premadasa our first Governor General Sir Oliver Goonathilaka and Sir D. B Jayathilake, a leader who worked hard to redeem Ceylon from British Colonial powers, were both distinguished old boys of Wesley college. Also Dr. C. W. W. Kannnangara, the father of free education, was a distinguish product of Richmond (Methodist) College, Galle.